Since her breakout role as the title heroine of Run Lola Run (1998), German actress Franka Potente has made her mark in some wildly different genres. Action fans will recognize her from the first two Bourne movies. Art house nerds welcomed her in The Princess and the Warrior and Che. Horror junkies praised her role of "Anne Frank" (so her character claimed to be) as a highlight of the FX series American Horror Story's bonkers second season. 

Her steadiest TV role so far is that of Eva, a madam with a good heart (and real brains) in BBC America's historical crime drama Copper (filmed in our hometown of Toronto). While Potente is ambivalent about Eva's place in the show's narrative arc, she has high hopes for its second season. We caught up with her during production.

Do you call California home now?

I got married here, started a family. So I've been living here about four years. Around Run Lola Run, more than 10 years ago, it was really more back and forth.

I ask because you've found steady work in both North America and your home country since you started doing Hollywood productions.

Yes and no ... we have a small child, and ever since I haven't gone back, been working on Copper. I still have an agent in Germany, still get scripts, but I don't think anyone is waiting for me there.

Where is your character, Eva, headed in the second season of Copper?

I don't know if this is a spoiler ... I don't have huge storylines. You never know as an actor ... I watch the show (as it airs) like everyone else, and an (ensemble) show is a huge thing to coordinate and edit, so "OK, this story felt bigger when we were shooting." But I know she will find a business partner, and get into different relationships. She ended things with Corky and will go a different (personal) route this season. I hope we get to see more or her, but who knows! Knock on wood. Very concerning [laughs].

As part of the ensemble, do you get an entire season's worth of scripts / stories in advance?

I wish! No, no. One script at a time, about five days before we start to shoot. But we take guesses, and there are tons of rumours and gossip as to what will happen. There's always someone concerned that their character will die. Sometimes I think it's silly that they don't tell us. You'll ask and the writer will be like [coyly] "I don't know ..." but they clearly do know! I'm not as used to working in that kind of environment. It's very different from film — writers want to share information with the actors. If I have any information I can wrap my head around, it can help me.

There's a possibly dubious anecdote I once heard about (Copper creator) Tom Fontana's old show Oz: that bit-part actors who showed up late or otherwise misbehaved would find their characters killed off the next week.

I'm too old to worry about that shit. This is a solid TV show. We're not right off the casting couch. I don't think anyone expects perfect behaviour from us.

I assume most of Copper is not shot within Toronto, so to speak, but on soundstages. How huge and impressive are the sets?

It's a huge studio. It's amazing. Sometimes you arrive on a set and just think, "OK, with good lighting this could work." But basically they've rebuilt uptown New York of the 1860s. It's like its own little town, there's live animals running around, mud puddles, hay. It's crazy.

Are you still recognized in public usually for Lola, considering you had a distinctive "look" in the movie that you obviously didn't carry with you?

It seems like it after all these years, which I love. It was a small, German movie, after all. It had the biggest impact on my career. The Bourne movies were great but very different in their genre. I find the most love for Lola.

Copper season two is currently airing on BBC America. It will air in Canada on Showcase this fall.

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