There's one thing that actors don't like: being typecast. German actor Thomas Kretschmann had to dig himself out of that potential rut, having played a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer over 10 times in his career. Kretschmann, who was born on Sept. 8, 1962, took to the camera late, since he was actually training to be an Olympic swimmer first. Growing up in East Germany in the days before the Berlin Wall was torn down, he actually defected to West Germany and wound up losing part of a finger due to frostbite in the process; it was saved and reattached. After appearing in German movies and TV shows, he got his first Hollywood break appearing in "U-571" (2000) as a German submarine captain. After several more German TV movies, he appeared in a couple of campy North American TV shows where his Teutonic good looks were appreciated: the adventure series "Relic Hunter" (CTV1999-2002) with Tia Carrera and the thriller "V.I.P." (Syndication 1998-2002) with Pamela Anderson. His film career spanned an impressive range, from popcorn fare including the action hero franchise "Blade II" (2002) with Wesley Snipes and Peter Jackson's "King Kong" (2005) to more somber period fare like Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" (2002) and the Tom Cruise Nazi thriller "Valkyrie" (2008). He even had a voice role in the Pixar sequel "Cars 2" (2011). He became a regular feature on American television with his key role as Abraham Van Helsing on the atmospheric horror series "Dracula" (NBC 2013-).