In the midst of the popularity of The Crown, another show has come to challenge for the throne of Netflix’s reigning royal period piece.


The Empress is a new show which follows the love story between Empress Elisabeth von Wittelsbach (Devrim Lingnau) and Emperor Franz Joseph (Philip Froissant), and the consequences that has for the court and contemporary society.

This cast has a lot of talented up-and-comers who perhaps wouldn’t be immediately recognisable to English-speaking audiences. Here's everything you need to know about the cast of The Empress.

Devrim Lingnau plays Princess/Empress Elisabeth von Wittelsbach

Elisabeth wearing a veil at her wedding

Who is Elisabeth von Wittelsbach? Elisabeth von Wittelsbach is the focal point of the series as the woman who Emperor Franz Joseph decides to marry - much to the shock of everyone but Franz Joseph himself. She’s deeply in love with the emperor, but also feels severely constrained by the weight of the pressures that come with her position - especially with the powerful forces shifting all around her.

Where have I seen Devrim Lingnau before? Devrim Lingnau made her screen debut in 2017, appearing in two episodes of German crime series Under Suspicion. She has had various TV appearances since then, and also had a leading movie role in Emily Harris's Carmilla, a film which follows the love story between a vampire and her prey, based on the Sheridan Le Fanu novella of the same name. Her most recent appearance was in a 2021 episode of Allmen, a show about the adventures of an unconventional art detective.

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Philip Froissant plays Emperor Franz Joseph

Philip Froissant as Franz Joseph I of Austria in The Empress season 1.

Who is Emperor Franz Joseph? Philip Froissant features as the reluctant Emperor himself. Joseph is a deeply conflicted man, especially with the building pressures of war in Europe, but he has his own very different plans for the Empire. The main thing that he is persistently decided on is his love for Elisabeth - but even that is put to the test by all these worries.

Where have I seen Philip Froissant before? Foissant’s career has been mostly focused on the theatre and not the screen, appearing in various roles across Germany. His most prominent on screen role has been in Netflix TV movie Black Island, directed by Miguel Alexandre. He plays the talented young orphan at the centre of the piece, who’s being manipulated by a newly-arrived teacher.

Hanna Hilsdorf plays Amalia

close-up of Amalia's face

Who is Amalia? Amalia is one of the courtiers that surrounds Sisi and hopes to take precedence in court. She is a stickler for the rules and defines herself by her lifelong devotion to the royal family and specifically the Empress.

Where have I seen Hanna Hilsdorf before? Hanna Hisldorf’s screen acting career started fairly recently with In The Fade (2017), a crime thriller about a woman seeking revenge for the deaths of her husband and child in a bomb attack. More recently, she featured in the biopic drama series We Children from Bahnhof Zoo.

Svenja Jung plays Louise

close-up of Louise

Who is Louise? Louise is a former courtier and romantic entanglement of Franz Joseph, and his attachment to her threatens to undermine his newfound love for Elisabeth. This becomes further complicated by her political ties that develop throughout the series.

Where have I seen Svenja Jung before? The German actor has predominantly worked in TV, getting her big break in soap opera Unter Uns. Keen Netflix viewers might recognise her from her work on the renowned German supernatural TV show Dark.

Wiebke Puls plays Sofia Esterházy-Liechtenstein

close-up of Sofia

Who is Sofia Esterházy-Liechtenstein? The Countess was the confidante of Princess Sophia and worked as the Oberhofmeisterin (Mistress of the Robes) to Elisabeth, ruling the royal court with an iron fist and attempting to force Elisabeth into conforming to etiquette.

Where have I seen Wiebke Puls before? Puls has been seen across German TV and film. Much like a few of her other co-stars, she appeared in a single episode of Under Suspicion, this time as a psychologist. Other appearances include business-based drama Open Season and countryside comedy My Life in Orange.

Elisa Schlott plays Helene

Helene greeting someone as she shakes their hand

Who is Helene? Helena is the older sister to Elisabeth, and the woman who Franz Joseph was initially set on marrying. Now she’s been put in a strange position, wronged by Elisabeth but still holding potential sway as the sister of the Empress.

Where have I seen Elisa Schlott before? Schlott got her start with TV show Das Geheimnis von St Ambrose in 2006, before taking various roles in film and TV from Losing Balance to Gaming Instinct, and ongoing mini-series Our wonderful years. One of her notable recent appearances is as Greta Nussmeier in this year’s TV series adaptation of Das Boot.

Melika Foroutan plays Princess Sophia

Princess Sophia talking to someone

Who is Princess Sophia? Princess Sophia of Bavaria is the mother to Franz Joseph, and one of the key players in the Hapsberg court. Even with her son now married she has immense sway, including operating control over the nation’s security forces that brutally supress rebellion.

Where have I seen Melika Foroutan before? Foroutan is the veteran actor, first appearing in 2000 in German court show Streit um Drei and appearing in a wide variety of TV shows over the years. This includes a 2011 appearance in Under Suspicion, the same show her co-star Lingnau got her start in. More recently, she starred in Netflix thriller Old People in 2022.

Johannes Nussbaum plays Archduke Maximilian

Maximillian looking at Elisabeth

Who is Archduke Maximillian? Brother of the Emperor, Archduke Maximilliam is the playboy of the family, leaving chaos and spurned lovers in his wake. In The Empress, he has just been called back to court as one of Franz Joseph’s counsellors. Both his deviousness and his tendency towards chaos pose a tremendous threat to his brother and our lead Elisabeth.

Where have I seen Johannes Nussbaum before? Nussbaum got his start in the award-winning Austrian film Import Export, and has since take on a wide range of roles. Perhaps one of his more recognisable roles in the English-speaking world is a part in Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, which follows a conscientious objecter in Nazi Germany.

Alexander Finkenwirth plays Alexander von Bach

Who is Alexander von Bach? Alexander von Bach was one of the closest advisors to Emperor Franz Joseph and his Minister of the Interior. He was largely disinterested in law and wanted to instead push industrialisation throughout the empire, which he saw as the best way to strengthen it.

Where have I seen Alexander Finkenwirth before? Alexander Finkenwirth has almost exclusively worked in TV, from an appearance in family crime show The Peppercorns, to joining his co-star in the TV adaptation of Das Boot. He has also appeared in a few short films like Cigarbox Blues and Herzberg.

The Empress is streaming now on Netflix. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.


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