Telling a story to an audience means taking a huge responsibility. In order to serve to a character and create something, one must believe and accept not only a job but also a commitment. I was lucky enough to see how Nilperi Şahinkaya evolve herself fearlessly and run after this responsibility in the course of time. She’s one of the people who know what they want and while taking the steps forward also keeping some room for the coincidences… She lets the books, movies, people or incidents she comes across to prepare surprises for her. Taking contrasts kindly in their own specific equilibrium. Meet Nilperi.
“Life taught me to look at things with the eyes of these ambitious, unlikeable, selfish women’s eyes which I once despised and as I continued to play those characters I came to realize that there is no right or wrong behaviour, no such thing as a right or wrong person. In their own conditions, everyone is trying to support one’s self.”
How can you describe your motives to be an actress?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: Whenever I ask a particular question in life or have a side that I needed to smooth, all the answers came with the roles that I played. A person’s biggest motivation is to create oneself and during this process my roles were my biggest guiding lights.
What kind of moods brought you to this place?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: There’s a wonderful saying by Freud: “Creativity is the other side of destruction.” People can be creative while expressing their dark feelings in a beautiful way. I feel my emotions so very deeply and actually am a very pessimist person. I could manage to fully discharge with the help of acting. When I don’t act, I feel like my emotions are being squeezed inside of me.
How can an actress protect the borders between work and private life?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: Our work schedule is so intense and unpredictable that being able to create that border in the first place would be a huge accomplishment. I cannot help but let work get involved in my personal life. In order to make them work together one must get really tough. There is no other way.
Is it possible to prevent the set’s emotional intensity spread around to your whole day?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: The more you gain experience the better you deal get dealing with it. I used to carry the whole weight of the character I play all day long. But now I know how to say goodbye to her as long as we finish filming the scene. Sometimes my colleagues laugh at me when I do that. As soon as a scene where I was having a nervous breakdown and cry sobbingly comes to an end I suddenly start to laugh and start making comments about that scene. And then they start to imitate me. (Laughs)
What kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to be an actor but has never taken a step towards that goal? What would your first sentence be?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: I’d say, “Have your education first.” I mean, really, the ones who really want to be an actor and the ones who just want to get some attention seperate at this point. I’ve always loved acting and in order to learn everything about it, went to the conservatory. If you do have something you love, you want to know more about it, learn everything about it. It comes from inside, no one can force you to do that. So, I don’t take it seriously if someone comes to me and says, “I want to be an actor, do you think education is necessary?”
How much an actress open her open herself to the comments and critics of the audience?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: Every comment on transferring emotion or rhythm should be taken seriously. Even though a million people say that she acted wonderfully, the actress need to understand why a single person didn’t like the performance. What matters the most is explaining the reason of dislike in the right and understandable words.
Is it necessary to overlap the truths of the character and your own?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: There were times which they did not, and I really liked it because with the help of it I learned to look things from a different perspective. Most of the characters I played were women that I normally criticize and underestimate. Life taught me to look at things with the eyes of these ambitious, unlikeable, selfish women’s eyes which I once despised and as I continued to play those characters I came to realize that there is no right or wrong behaviour, no such thing as a right or wrong person. In their own conditions, everyone is trying to support one’s self.
In what conditions the actress can be defined as ‘brave’?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: For me, bravery in acting happens when the actress thinks “I can’t pull this role off, I can’t perform it!” but advance towards it and performs. Everyone’s definition of bravery may differ… I freed myself by seeing that I could pull off any role I once thought impossible. Now I know that I can play any character, any role that will come my way. And being able to say this gives me a huge sense of freedom.
How’s your daily routine at the set?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: I wait, a lot. And while waiting I drink tea and coffee, I chat with my colleagues and of course, memorize my lines.
I guess backstage is not as exciting as what happens in front of the camera.
Nilperi Şahinkaya: Absolutely. I came to understand that the artist is nothing but an employee. We wait, we memorize our lines and shoot a scene over and over again. Our time is limited so there’s always a rush and everyone is running around. No one is really in the mood to think about another person because there’s a new episode which needs to be completed! TV series are pleasant, but if there’s no time there is no art. I only can feel like I’m in the art scene when I act in a theatre play.
And it’s the perfect time for that!
Nilperi Şahinkaya: Excatly! We’re preparing for our new play. At Craft, working with İbrahim Çiçek as our director, we’re getting ready to put Larry Kramer’s ‘The Normal Heart’ on the stage, under the name of ‘Kalp’. It’s a really intense story. During the times the AIDS virus was spreading, the government hides the existence of this illness even though many gay men start to lose their lives. I play a doctor who’s trying to do her research on this virus. Since the government doesn’t give any support but instead trying to avoid it, she’s trying to make this virus known globally by gathering some wealthy gay men together and asking for their help.
What would your personal reaction be if you lived at those times?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: In the play, the government hides the disease because it’s homophobic. They simply leave gay men to die. I’m against all behaviours which marginalize or discriminate people. I would do anything I could in order to raise awareness. Because there was no such a thing as social media, many people couldn’t make their voice heard. Looking from this perspective, we’re lucky to live in the social media era. Now everyone has the chance to be heard.
Acting is like travelling through time…
Nilperi Şahinkaya: Absolutely! As a matter of fact, acting is a timeless zone. In every movie or play we watch, whenever the period is, we see that people always fight for their own rights, suffer and try to hold on to life. Regardless of time, we’re all too human.
A new movie is on the way! Karakomik Filmler: Kaçamak. How’s working with Cem Yılmaz? Was it as entertaining as reputed to be? Was it as hard as it’s talked about?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: Cem Yılmaz is an intellectual. It’s not a coincidence that his production company’s name is ‘Fikir Sanat.’ His energy is supreme and he has a really sharp wit. For example, while he’s making us laugh, suddenly went for a stroll and when he came back saying, “I have an idea!”, came up with a wonderful idea about the poster! I assume you saw the poster, it’s like a Renaissance painting. He’s like this all the time! I always find myself gaping with astonishment. He’s intelligent, wise and creative. At the set, everything is already clear-cut in his mind. And he works hard to get exactly what he wants. Like every creative person, he’s telling about life and people’s dark sides in a funny way. ‘Karakomik Filmler’ is also a dark comedy. We find ourselves laughing about stuff that actually piss us off.
Can you give us some tips about the movie?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: I’m working at NASA and I’m an American. Well, what am I doing in Turkey? You’ll figure out the rest…
Diane von Fürstenberg says, “30 is the best thing that can happen to a woman.” How is 30s going for you so far?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: I’ve waited for my 30 impatiently and it was worth it! Of course your mindset doesn’t change over a night’s sleep but everything you recognized or smoothed about yourself fall into place when you’re 30. For example, in my 20s I was a complete dreamer and such a Pollyanna. At the age of 25 I came to realize that life is a really wild ride and started to get afraid of it. At 30, I started to like this wild side, because I get to play the game by the rules. Some kind of acceptance and power come to women at 30. It’s like you solved the rules of the game. Instead of running away from it, you start to flirt with it. Plus, it’s such a relief once you understand all the pain really gets lighter.
You once said in an old interview: “Love comes first.” Do you still think so?
Nilperi Şahinkaya: Yes! Everything that has done with love glows. And everything without it is pale beside. For me life is exactly like this; when there’s no one I love, everything seems colorless and pale. Whenever I fall in love, everyone around me says, “You’re glowing, there’s a light shining through you.” I think the world’s end will come when there’s no love left behind. (Laughs)