‘I was able to hold on to my roots and continue on my way without being swayed’Akın Akınözü
Full YouTube interview here.
December 5, 2021
Every step he takes, every photo he shares becomes the trend on social media. His fame transcended the borders of the country; He has fans in Spain and Latin America… We met with Akın Akınözü and talked about his adventure from his mathematics eduction in Berkeley to acting, love and the unknowns of his life: “Praise is as dangerous as satire. This may be the reason behind my distant stance. I don’t shape my feelings about myself based on external comments.”
You can often see his name on Twitter’s TT (Trending topic) list. He is always on the agenda, but he does not give many newspaper interviews. That’s why I was so curious about him. Finally, we met because of his new drama ‘The Game of My Destiny’. He has sharp and strong facial features. This gives him a ‘cool’ and somewhat harsh air. As soon as he smiles, you see a very pleasant man in front of you. He explains how he differentiates himself from his other colleagues: “We shine more and make a difference when we give appropriate value to the uniqueness that we carry in our fingerprints, and find the courage to express it.”
You are very popular, but I searched and scanned and I could not find many newspaper interviews. Although you have over 3 million followers, you don’t share much. Why this veil of secrecy?
I choose to have a balanced and distant stance. This situation can sometimes create the perception of mystery. However, my aim is to reflect my true self to everyone who follows and supports me.
Peter Dinklage, who starred in the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’, said in an interview, “Because there was no social media in the era of Marlon Brando, when we watched him on the screen, we bought into, and believed his character.” Now, if you share a post on Instagram the day before the show, it’s hard for the audience to believe the character you are playing. And sometimes social media becomes the purpose rather than a tool. We even live for it. That’s why I keep my distance. I prefer to maintain awareness of my surroundings and stay in the moment rather than thinking that way.
Then let’s break the veil of secrecy together…
Sure, circumstances permitting (laughs).
We know that you are from Ankara. Beyond that, what kind of person are you?
I am 31 years old and an only child. My mother is a graduate of the conservatory. But she focused more as a dubbing artist than in theater. In the old days, my mother would dub the voices of female leads of most of the foreign series that TRT brought. My father was a government official. During Ecevit’s term, he served as the vice president of privatization and advisor to the prime minister. Then he moved to the private sector. He is currently retired and working on a script.
As a kid, your passion was math, right?
Yes, as a child I was very curious about math and science.
Why did you love that?
Because I enjoyed solving problems. Physics gave me a taste in high school, after awhile geometry entered my blood and then I found myself in mathematics. While I was thinking about what would keep me alive in the field while at university, I decided to study mathematics.
After my one-year University of Wisconsin adventure, I went to Santa Monica College, then transferred to UC Berkeley to study applied mathematics.
THE SCREEN CLOSED ON MY FACE
How did the transition to acting take place after such a training?
While I was studying at Berkeley, I began to question what I really wanted. I think when people are about to step into life, they begin to question ‘what do I really want’. There, I had the opportunity to make these inquiries within myself, away from external voices. I thought about possible careers in applied mathematics. One of them was investment banking, and that didn’t excite me at all. Thanks to some elective courses I took at that time, I also became interested in art. And I realized that there is also mathematics in art and problems to be solved. Solving these problems required mental, spiritual, emotional and physical effort. This got me very excited, and propelled me in my path.
What was your family’s reaction?
I told my father about my decision while video chatting on Skype.
Oh no! What did he do?
The screen went off in my face (laughs).
So nice! How was he convinced?
It digested over time. Actually, looking back now, I agree with him. He feared that it might be a decision taken on a whim after years of training and investment, and just when the end had been reached. My mother balanced my father. I was very clear about my decision too. When I was able to stand firm in front of my father, it gave me the strength to stand firm in front of everyone. And on the day I passed his test, I removed all the obstacles in front of me and won my most trusted mentor in my life at the same time.
So how were you discovered?
When I returned to Turkey, I came to Istanbul. We’ve known İpek Bilgin a long time. I studied at Craft Atelier (workshop) for a while. At that time, I caught the attention of a manager during a test shoot that the workshop directed, and I started working with him. One day, after the numerous test shoots I participated in, I was invited to and audition for the ‘Magnificent Century: Kösem’. Zeynep (Günay Tan) came to the test shoot and said ‘OK’ right in the room while I was still there. I’ll never forget my excitement at that moment. In fact, I forgot my clothes in the room where the shooting took place and walked on air. That’s how my career started and now continues with the ‘Game of My Destiny’ series.
I WAS ALWAYS PEACE WITH MYSELF, EVEN WHEN I WAS 120 KILOS IN HIGH SCHOOL…
Were you always this handsome?
I’ve always been at peace with myself. I’m the same now as I was when I was 120 kg in high school.
Why did you lose weight then?
I didn’t have a problem with the man I saw in the mirror, I was peaceful but a little lazy. I thought it was time to show the will power necessary to take care of my health and get rid of some of my excesses. At that time and still today, I developed habits like sports and conscious nutrition. But most importantly, everything is possible with strong will power…
You have very sharp facial features. Have you had any cosmetic surgery?
I have not done cosmetic surgery.
As a man everyone finds sexy, how do you find yourself in the mirror?
Praise is as dangerous as satire. This may be the reason behind my distant stance. I don’t shape my feelings about myself based on external comments. When I look in the mirror, I enjoy my different colors and how they make me feel. For me, they are reactions brought about by certain situations and circumstances.
THIS PROJECT HAS LITERALLY GRABBED ME
‘The Game of My Destiny’ started in Star. How would you describe your character, Cemal, for those who haven’t watched it yet?
A man who has to pay a heavy price for not being able to take care of his loved ones. He cannot show the maturity to bear the responsibilities of the decisions he made at a young age and he is crushed under these responsibilities. He makes a choice that he will call ‘my biggest mistake’… The reason I chose this character was to help Cemal understand what the real value is in the game of his own destiny, fight for this value again, and accompany him so that he can get out of the game by being free.
What kind of story will we watch?
A work that hopes to make the audience question their own destiny games and find some answers by processing the choices our characters make in their destiny games and the emotional conflicts caused by these choices from a real place in the spontaneous rhythm of life…
Did you have a special preparation process?
I worked with Beyti Engin, with whom my path crossed in a previous project. Thanks to him, I better grasped and assimilated the richness of the story and the emotional depth of the character’s journey.
You share the lead role with Öykü Karayel. I guess your dream was to play with her in this project…
Yeah. When I read the project, I saw Öykü in the character of Asiye. I couldn’t think of any other alternative. I also shared this with my manager Günfer (Gunayden). It turns out that at that time, they had already reached the signing point with Öykü. I had the opportunity to be a partner in this project with a name that I felt so deeply about. So this is the game of my destiny (laughs).
While you are on the rise, this series is very important to your career. Does this put pressure on you?
This is the testing period. Expectations about you rise after you do a job that makes a lot of noise. In fact, this pressure could lead to wrong decisions…
So what did you do?
In the approximately seven months period until this project came, I read all the works with the support of Günfer, listening to the voice of my heart. This project totally grabbed me. I just wanted to witness the journey of my character with such a team, without thinking about what it would do in the ratings, or how loud it would sound. As an Actor , I sometimes see myself as a lawyer defending my characters’ cause and ask myself, ‘Is there anything worth winning in this case?’ My answers to these moved my heart.
FATE, OUR LIFE Scenario
Do you believe in destiny?
Yes, but it really depends on how we define destiny.
How do you define destiny?
Our life scenario, which tries to teach us the lessons necessary to fill the void within us and brings these lessons to us again and again with other games until we learn them, leaves us free in our choices but holds us responsible for the consequences, and enlightens us when we understand it…
WE NEVER LEFT EACH OTHER’S HAND
Is it scary to be known, attracted, and famous in such a short time?
Popularity can have a scary side when it comes suddenly in such an age. But it means that I have a solid background from my family. In this process, I was able to hold on to my roots and continue on my way without being swayed.
You and Sandra Pestemalciyan have been together for almost five years… How has fame affected your relationship?
Due to my previous job, I had to stay in Mardin for almost three years. I can say that both being away and the rapid changes in my life put our relationship to a serious test. At this point, we have a much stronger and more meaningful relationship because we went through this whole process by supporting each other without leaving each other’s hands.
You are young, handsome, talented… There are many women who like you. Doesn’t your mind ever wander to others?
Ignoring something does not make you strong. I am in a situation where my mind is very likely to slip, but I think our relationship is valuable and meaningful as I am still able to find the reality I want, in the presence of all these possibilities, with Sandra.
What kind of lover are you?
I am more loving than lover!
How is your girlfriend affected by your popularity?
From one angle, we work hard to try to convince people of the love they watch on the screen. And to the extent we can make this love real, we are successful. Because of this, Sandra was sometimes perceived as an enemy damaging this reality and was also exposed to attacks. But because of her love for me and her respect for my job, she showed maturity in the face of all this. It is my duty to know the value of such a partner and to take care of her.
WE RECEIVED INVITATIONS FROM LATIN AMERICA AND THE USA
You made the cover of Hello! magazine, People magazine made the news. How did your overseas adventure begin?
The publication of ‘Hercai’ abroad was instrumental. Our series has a serious audience around the world. I am happy that I have the opportunity to make my voice heard in the world by practicing this profession in my country. We shot Hello! magazine here, and we did interviews with foreign channels over the internet. I intend to meet with our audience there soon.
DISRESPECT, INJUSTICE, NEGLIGENCE AND EXPLOITATION OF LABOR MY RED LINES
How would you describe yourself?
The most important reason for me to choose this profession is to discover and get to know myself. Thanks to the new space that each character opens for me, I discover something about myself, and as I discover, I find the freedom to express myself. So this may be the answer to my journey itself rather than a question I would answer intellectually.
Then what are your passions outside of acting?
People and life. I have a very serious passion for life, people and relationships. Acting actually offers us the opportunity to go deep into people, to dig into the situations that life throws at us, and to examine relationships in detail. That’s why my passions are already outside acting. Acting simply provides me with a functional tool to experience these passions of mine.
What is the trait your friends want to change in you?
I may be stubborn. I can be obsessively stubborn at times, and this makes me lose my flexibility in life. In such situations, my friends try to comfort me by saying “Relax a little, relax”.
Do you get angry?
I have red lines. Like everyone else, I can get angry when they are crossed. But the important thing is, day by day, to be able manage the situations that anger me.
What are those red lines?
Disrespect, injustice, negligence, and exploitation of labor are among my red lines…
No copyright infringement is intended. This is an English translation of the original article in Hurriyet Pazar https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kelebek/hurriyet-pazar/virgil-abloh-modada-nasil-cigir-acti-41954037