Helena Zengel is a German child actress who is best known for starring in the German film System Crasher (2019) and the American film News of the World (2020).
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Helena Zengel was born on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 (age 13 years; as of 2021), in Berlin, Germany. Her zodiac sign is Gemini.
As a toddler, Helena was an over-energetic frisky child. Therefore, her parents enrolled her in ice-skating classes and also encouraged her to try acting to channel her energy towards something productive. In an interview, Helena’s mother, Anna Zengel, said,
She had to function in society, so we had to figure out how to redirect her energy.”
Helena got into acting through a friend of her mother who owned and operated an acting agency, which helped Helena secure minor roles in a few films and television shows. Surprisingly, Helena never pursued any acting classes and claims that she naturally possesses the skills. In an interview, while talking about her ability to act, she said,
Acting is actually normal for me…I never had acting classes or anything, so it’s just something natural I like to do.”
Hair Color: Platinum
Eye Color: Blue
Family & Ethnicity
Helena’s parents are musicians. Her mother, Anne Zengel, is a professional singer who also worked as a radio jockey at B2, a German radio network.
Helena Zengel began her acting career at the age of five when she appeared as a little girl in a music video of the song “Streets” by the Berlin Alternative rock band Abby. Thereafter, she starred in numerous projects of film school students, belonging to renowned universities across Germany.
She made her film debut with the drama film ‘Looping’ in which she played the role of Lilly. The film follows three women who end up in a psychiatric clinic in search of safety and security.
At the age of eight, she landed the first main role of a seven-year-old girl named Luca in the 2017 German drama film, Die Tochter (Dark Blue Girl). In the film, Luca plays her parents against each other to prevent their reunion and to regain the top spot in her father’s life.
She came into the limelight with the 2019 German drama film ‘System Crasher’ in which she played the protagonist Bernadette (Benni), a nine-year-old neurotic, aggressive, and uncontrollable girl who lashes out if anyone, other than her mother, touches her face. In the film, Benni’s temperament is a consequence of a childhood trauma in which, according to the social worker, nappies were pressed into her face. The role of Benni earned Helena the Best Actress Award at the Deutscher Filmpreis (2020), the German equivalent of the Oscars.
She struck stardom with the 2020 American Western drama film ‘News of the World’ in which she played the protagonist Johanna. In the film, Helena shared the screen with the celebrated American actor Tom Hanks who played the role of Civil War veteran Kyle Kidd who Kyle discovers a young girl named Johanna who was stolen by Kiowa, a Native American Tribe, as an infant. Therefore, he accepts responsibility for taking her to her surviving family.
For her spectacular performance in News of the World (2020), Zengel received nominations for various accolades including Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
In 2014, she made her television debut with the German crime series ‘Spreewaldkrimi’ (Spreewald thriller) in which she played the role of Johanna in an episode titled “Mörderische Hitze.”
She appeared in the episodes titled Flowerpower (2016) as Anja Rothmann and Sommermärchen (2017) as Lilly Weyer of ZDF Enterprises’ police procedural series ‘Die Spezialisten – Im Namen der Opfer’ (Never too late for justice). The series follows the passionate forensic scientist Dr. Katrin Stoll and her detective chief inspector who investigate unresolved cases in the light of newly uncovered leads or evidence, seeking to identify the offenders and discover the truth on behalf of victims’ families and friends.
In 2017, she played the role of Fabienne in the television crime film ‘Der gute Bulle’ (The good cop). The series follows Fredo Schulz, an alcoholic and former police officer who is brought back to investigate the case of a wanted sex offender.
Apart from being a skillful actor, she is also a podcaster. In July 2021, she started her podcast named Ein großes Z und ein kleiner Engel (A big Z and a little angel).
- Won the Creative Energy Award at the International Filmfestival Emden-Norderney (2019) for the film ‘System Crasher’ (2019)
- Earned the title of ‘Best Actress’ at the Santiago Festival Internacional de Cine (2019) for the film ‘System Crasher’ (2019)
- Earned the title of ‘Best Actress’ at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (2020) for the film ‘System Crasher’ (2019)
- Earned the title of ‘Best Actress’ at the Deutscher Filmpreis (2020) for the film ‘System Crasher’ (2019)
- Won the title of Best Performance by a Youth at Phoenix Film Critics Society (2021) for the film News of the World (2020)
- Film(s): What Dreams May Come (1998), Forrest Gump (1994)
- Singer: Lady Gaga
- Songs: Shallow (2018), Poker Face (2008)
- Food: Sushi with lots of wasabi
- Since childhood, she was fond of horse riding and also owns an Icelandic horse named Hekla. In an interview, while talking about her fondness for horses, she said,
I’ve been riding for seven, maybe eight years. I’ve had my own horse for about four years. She’s an Icelandic horse named Hekla, and she’s 12 years old. I go to the barn six days a week.”
- Born to musician parents, Zengel is proficient in pianoforte. In an interview, while talking about her excellence in pianoforte, she said,
I also play the piano, at the level of “Für Elise”. My mum’s birthday is coming up, so I’m going to play a little concert for her.”
- To channelize her abundant energy, she pursues various hobbies in her leisure time. Her hobbies include athletics, figure skating, dancing, skateboarding, and sewing.
Her proficiency in figure skating has earned her prizes in various competitions.
- She was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for her first English-language role. When she auditioned for her role in ‘News of the World’ (2020), she didn’t have the strongest grasp of the English language.
- While shooting for ‘News of the World’ (2020) in which she played the role of an orphan girl raised by the Kiowa people, Helena bonded with an elderly Kiowa woman named Dorothy WhiteHorse, who taught Zengel the language and customs of the Kiowa Tribe. The first time WhiteHorse met Helena Zengel, she gave the child star a beaded cross, and the second time, she gave her a little doll.
- She is an overzealous person who believes in living life to the fullest. In an interview, while talking about her fearless attitude, she said,
I’ll jump from a thousand feet into the water. I’ll be scared, but if you don’t do it, you can never say you did something.”
- The website of her podcast features a winged capital letter Z on the top. In one of her podcasts, she explained that the capital letter Z and wings together make Z+angel or Zengel.
- To help Zengel distinguish herself from her traumatized character from the film ‘System Crasher’ (2019), the director of the film, Nora Fingscheidt, mimed a little scene with Zengel once the shooting was over. In the scene, Nora held her hand like a showerhead and the child actor pretended to wash underneath it, to indicate her transition back to herself.