Born in West Berlin, raised in Paris, film and television actor Christian Berkel first won international acclaim for his slow-burning performance as "Prisoner #38" in director Oliver Hirschbiegel's fact-based thriller "Das Experiment". Berkel was by then well-known to German-speaking audiences, having made dozens of '90s TV series appearances, delivering nuanced portrayals of characters who are devious, deeply conflicted, or just downright sinister. He landed on the Hollywood map thanks to his standout turn in Hirschbiegel's Oscar-nominated drama "Downfall", playing Dr. Ernst-Günter Schenck, an SS doctor who tends tirelessly to the care and well-being of his patients and confederates during the final, crushing days before Hitler's defeat. Following his brief role in the big-budget thriller "Flightplan", Berkel again donned a Nazi uniform for the Paul Verhoeven-directed World War II-set erotic drama "Black Book"--then again in Spike Lee's drama "Miracle at St. Anna". In the same year, Berkel brought a fairly unexplored dimension to the Third Reich canon, playing real-life SS officer (and Resistance fighter) Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim, opposite Tom Cruise, in the plot-to-kill-Hitler actioner "Valkyrie". Berkel won raves for playing another actual SS officer, Gestapo leader Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, in the critically acclaimed Danish thriller "Flame and Citron". Amusingly breaking from type, Berkel appeared in Quentin Tarantino's plot-to-kill-Hitler actioner, "Inglourious Basterds", not as a Nazi, but as a shotgun-wielding tavern owner. With his career in European and American cinema thriving, in 2006 Berkel scored his first major TV series lead, starring as the hero of the popular German crime procedural "Der Kriminalist".