Maria Tornberg is a Swedish-born actress who is perhaps most widely known for her role as “The Hot German Girl” in the comedy classic, Super Troopers. The popularity of her role sparked a petition to bring her back for Super Troopers 2, which is rumored to be in the works. But aside from that, she is also a model, a writer, a poet, a director, and she also has her own photography business!
In this interview, we talk about Maria’s journey from Sweden to Hollywood, and the horrific obstacles she had to overcome before living out her dreams. Through her experiences, she shares wonderful wisdom and advice on what it takes to succeed in the entertainment industry today.
Does it ever get old being known as “The Hot Girl from Super Troopers”?
No! It never gets old! That movie was a great experience for me. It was my very first film that I did in the United States. It opened up so many doors for me, and it’s a part of my life. But, I have SO many other things that I’m working on that people will know me for as well.
Super Troopers 2 is supposedly in the works. There is a petition for them to bring you back. Why bother with the petition? You should be in it no matter what, right?!
[laughs] I don’t know, I’m just going with it. It’s funny to me. I didn’t even know there was going to be a Super Troopers 2 until somebody asked me if I was going to be in it. I said I had no idea, and that’s when they offered to make this petition. If they want to bring me back it would be fun to do! If not, then it will be fun to watch the movie!
You are from the small town of Helsingborg, Sweden. How did you get from there to Hollywood?
I always had dreams of coming to the United States. There were many years where I was modeling in Europe, going from country to country until I finally decided to take that step and go to New York. There, I went to drama school and very quickly, I booked Super Troopers. [laughs]
How did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
I started as a writer and an actor in Sweden. I was always doing performance art. I was in theater school, and I was writing stories and doing poetry. When I was in high school, I got an unexpected opportunity to model. At the time, I thought it was a great way to get out into the world and get away from my small town in Sweden. So, I started doing that and it changed my life.
Was it difficult growing up in a small town with big dreams?
The society that I grew up in didn’t really encourage people to dream big and to follow their dreams. You were not allowed to stand out, or be different, or try to want to do something with your life. You had to fit in and, and you were knocked down if you weren’t like everybody else. I always had a dream, but growing up I kept that dream to myself. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t get that opportunity to get out into the world and model.
What happened once you took the modeling opportunity?
I went to Paris; I was only 16 years old. I had an idea of what modeling would be like. I thought the agency would take care of me and help me, but they didn’t. They just put a map in my hand and sent me to castings. I didn’t even know what a casting was! I was too shy and too afraid of looking stupid to even ask.
That must have been difficult being so young.
It’s difficult when you’re a teenager: Your body is developing and you’re being objectified. I was always told that I was fat, or how I was too much this or too little that, or I wasn’t good enough…just constantly being put down a lot. The modeling industry for me in Europe at that time was really, really dark.
What were some dark things that you experienced?
The photographers my agency sent me to were slimeballs. The agents I worked with were extremely manipulative. There were a lot of drugs around, and a lot of girls that got in trouble. It was like a jungle! There were a lot of dangerous situations.
Uh oh, what kind of dangerous situations?
Diane Sayer did a 60 Minutes about modeling agents who were drugging and raping girls. I was with one of those agents! It was an extremely dark time for me. I basically had to escape Paris.
What made you keep going despite these dark times? What kept you from quitting or going back home?
I think there’s a spirit that sort of pushes through. Somehow I knew that I just had to go through the fire. I had made this decision, and I was gonna go for it.
What valuable lessons did you learn through such experiences?
It taught me a lot and gave me a lot of life experience, and an education you could never even dream of paying for. Traveling alone in Europe, I had to learn very quickly how to be an adult and how to survive in a predatory world.
How were you able to survive?
I always stood up for myself, and I think that’s why I am here today. I never did drugs, and I was always fighting through and making sure I was protecting myself. The most important thing for me was that I had faith. I was always writing. I always knew that I had a bigger plan for myself. One day I would tell my story. I never really felt like this was the end-all for me.
How were you able to get yourself through the tough times?
If you look at life as being a character in your own movie, it makes it much more endurable. If you’re going through something painful, that’s a story. I’ve gone through a lot of pain in my life, and I always look at it as, “This is the part of the story when…” That would be my way of getting through it. Then, I would write about it. It’s all about the journey. Life is a journey and a struggle.
What is something you hope to accomplish that you haven’t already?
I think that I’ve come to the point in my life where I’m able to hopefully inspire younger people and help them. I think our duty in life is when we go through things ourselves, hopefully we learn from them to make us better people, and then to be there for somebody else who’s going through the same thing.
Why did you choose to do what you do?
We are so isolated and alone in our own universe, I think we all just want to be known. I’m not talking about fame, I’m talking about just being known and being seen. I want my soul to be known and shared with other people to feel that connection.
What advice do you have for those who dream of being in the entertainment industry?
Take control of your own career. There are SO many possibilities to create your own career: YouTube, blogging, vlogging, podcasting… Don’t wait for opportunities, create them yourself. You can’t just sit around waiting for a manager or an agent to create opportunities for you—you have to do it yourself. It is a really good time for artists. There are so many possibilities to do things ourselves. Don’t let people define you. Keep your eye on your goals and on your dreams.