Some people hold you a mirror… A sharp mirror where you face all your fears. And in doing so, you see that their only wish is to make the world a more livable and more honest place. Sometimes, being not too involved with life, staying away from it doesn’t mean being non-existent but actually means to be present even more. And this is where Beren Saat is entering our lives. Our passion for her is hidden in her self-confidence, I’m sure about that now. It is incredible to embrace one’s fears and happiness in such a way. The more imagination a person has in childhood, the more they can inspire dreams in the future and the more they can embrace life with all their sub-selves, the more generous life will become. Talking about the journey of acting with her, was like going on a trip into the near future of a field that has become one of Turkey’s most important industries. I am happy, we are happy to leave behind a lot of positive affirmation for both our individual development and the industry… What brought us together is Netflix’s new Turkish series, Atiye! In this mystical project that brings her back to the screen, a new Beren is entering our lives. She knows what she wants and is courageous enough to face all the other Berens… Life begins at the point where you know yourself, know what you want! Come, take part in this inspiring story!
How was your childhood?
I was a bookworm when I was a kid. I always found myself imagining the children’s novels I read. Then I realized that those were small workshops I made for myself. I created a system of playing games like a drama workshop. Although my mother socialized me very much, I was a child who is also happy in her own world. My toys and my imagination were enough for me.
Can you tell us about your first moment when you realized you wanted to be an actress?
I was about 9-10. I had watched Selcuk Yöntem’s play “Ben Feuerbach”. I remember the iron construction stairs in the final scene, the flashing lights and the way Selcuk entered the stage… The feeling of “I want to be there too” was very dominant.
What happened next?
I was in a school that had many cultural and artistic activities and I was very lucky for that. During my education at TED Ankara Private School, I first started dancing and then played in school musicals. Once you’ve played the lead role in a musical on the stage of the State Opera and Ballet at the age of 15 and you’ve tasted that feeling, it wasn’t possible to go back. But life went in a different direction. In high school, I inclined towards science. I felt very good in the science labs too. I was confused at that time and I was very impressed with Ayşe Kulin’s novel “Adı Aylin”. It was the time when I wanted to be a psychiatrist. When I was about 17-18, I asked my self; “What are you after?”. At that time, of course, the family tries to guide you.
“Having a gold bracelet on your arm”? (A Turkish idiom referring to a skill one can use to support oneself)
Sure. But there is also a fact that there are a few examples that have achieved a real economic freedom through acting until our generation. Especially considering Yeşilçam. (The golden age of Turkish cinema from the 1950s to 1970s, aka the Yesilçam era)
At that time, the perception on acting as a profession was very weak. That unnamed passion was interpreted as a hobby at school.
You have to choose a place in the education system and as a result, I started studying business. But there was no going back after that feeling of adrenaline.
Did you stage well-known classic plays?
There were musicals like The Blues Brothers and Grease, but ours were original texts. On the 75th anniversary of the Republic, they included us on a tour of Samsun Ship. A ship full of state artists starting from Izmir to Cyprus was a dazzling experience for a 14-year-old girl. The advantages of the school that I studied turned into my dreams and my career.
Ankara is also a very conscious city in terms of performing arts?
Nowadays, I don’t see people taking their children to ballet. It made me understand what the ballet lessons I took as a child served. It was like a dream to play a leading role in a musical at the age of 15 at the stage I watched Nutcracker when I was 7-8 years old. Then when I watched it again in Paris at the age of 25, I felt a little closer to this perfect aesthetic. The kind of opportunities that are offered to you to dream is very important In those years, we were lucky children who had access to the cultural facilities of Ankara founded by Atatürk. Now you have endless access with technology. On the other hand, the second spring of the theatre is happening. While the popularity of the television series is decreasing, it is very pleasing that the theatre audience is increasing.
Is there a theatre project that will include you in this blooming period?
Not yet. I want a modern stage management. We talked about a few projects, but things tie-up at some point. Good management, a good text would be perfect. I don’t want to make a play that is tarred with the same brush, after watching a play in London and knowing what they could do with minimal but powerful management. I want my debut play to be modern, worldly and intelligent.
Acting has become the occupation of generations, has the perception of acting changed? It’s like being an actor is confused for being famous…
In fact, this is not only for us but for all the fields. We came to an era of the accessibility of fame. Everybody has the chance to create their own fame in some way and reach a much wider audience than before. This is actually a good thing. Also, we owe the women’s movement in Hollywood to this. They can freely tell their troubles, dreams and stories on digital platforms without the need for capital support of the big studios. While they were having great positive outcomes, people got a little bit confused with everyone becoming famous. I’m sure that people’s popularity has a reason but popularity without producing anything contaminates the environment we’re in. I am sure things will settle in time but now the lines are a little bit blurry.
I am one of the closest witnesses of the founding of this industry, from the days when we struck to have trailers on set to the days with sets that have seven trailers, things have changed. This is my fifteenth year in the industry and I witnessed the very foundation of it. Both the power of story-telling and talented people in every field, growing productions … Unfortunately, I witnessed the degeneration of what we created in 10-12 years by making a lot of sacrifices in just 1-2 years. Censorship, printing, deadlines, omissions …
Now the actors who are chosen based on the number of their followers…
When people are casting actors, they no longer ask “Who could play this character the best?”, they only cast actors based on their followers. They are offending good writers and directors over minutes. Because of censorship , some executives who are not good enough in the channels impose their ideas, digest producers and directors .People who are not quite seasoned yet have become channel executives, directors, chief editors.We are now in the period of not being able to produce projects as we did before. The set is an awesome learning process for the actor.No matter how prepared or educated you are, you’ll have a moment to play your most dramatic scene just by looking at the phosphor tape on the edge of a camera lens.It is a journey that is entirely personal. And nothing can provide that moment other than set experience.
A young actor needs to be given a good text in the first place to discover himself/herself and to have a more fruitful outcome from that story. A character is as clever as his/her dialogues. What an actor can do is as much as the space and the dialogues director has given them. So with worse scripts and inexperienced directors, freshmen are less likely to develop. Their space is a lot smaller than what we had back then.
Since the actors are the face of the shows, everything is judged through the actor, but what is actually provided to them ?We miss that point…
Dialogues, movies, lines, characters that we admire and never forget… They exist because of good scripts or good scripts based on good novels. It’s a collective profession. The function of the actor is to be elastic enough to bend and to surrender
his/herself to the hands of the director.But the main question is this; Can we provide good education for those directors? Can we really encourage writers?
Where did we abandon the courage?
Writers have been discouraged.It happens in any king of writing in our country, not just scenarios. You may also be writing for a newspaper, you may be writing a sentence on your own social media, a sentence that may cause you to end up in jail. On the other hand, a lot of books have been published and I am very happy about that yet I wonder; “Can everyone write everything as they wish? Can they write their own darkness and their own ideas? ” I said this many years ago, “We shouldn’t make self-censorship choices that we will be ashamed of in the future.” People are not aware of the self-censorship they apply to themselves. Everyone is afraid to write .Afraid to speak. Even in bilateral relations, people are afraid of their own conversations. As a society, do we confront our darkness or do we strive to reach the light? I’m not so sure.
You know the thing called “Directors Cut”, sometimes directors are like “The producer wanted that way but that’s what I would do” or years later they say “I would have done it like that.” What would people say if they had a “Director’s Cut” of their own? What would we watch if everyone could realize their true artistic self?We have gone through very dark, very angry times, and now we see their artistic manifestations; in music, in books and in the theatre.Unfortunately, we don’t see that very much in cinema.Because our cinema is a monopoly of comedy. But I wonder what would have come out if we were to express what we really felt.
Do you provide spaces for yourself to create this manifestation individually?
A little bit… We have a freer platform in Atiye. If we did this on national television, this project would have been written otherwise.
Does digital provide a free environment?
Isn’t the generation that can never be censored, exposed to too much censorship?
Economic sanctions brought the industry into this point. In the face of sanctions such as paying a fine twice the budget of an episode of the series , the channels became unable to take risks.Producers were ordered, “Do not do something like this again.”.Producers said to the writers, “Do not write.”. The writers stopped writing, perhaps resisted sometimes, but the directors did not shot it.We’ve been through all this.”Kösem Sultan” is the project in which these fights became the most consuming for me .The writer wrote, the director didn’t shoot, sometimes the director said, “I’m going to shoot it” but the channel deleted the scene. Because of the real characters in question, we have experienced so much chaos and worn out that enthusiasm has been replaced by disbelief. There were scenes about the children and we were fined because of those. For example, the fratricide scene. .We were getting a warning that the children’s trust in their families would be shaken by the fratricide, but it was one biggest reality of the Ottoman Empire and once you shoot those scenes and get fined because of it you start to lose the foundation of the story but this is one of the most dramatic truths about the Ottoman administration system and you are taking the main conflict out of the story by banning those scenes.
Don’t you think that a story like that shouldn’t be a tv show in the first place?
The situation has transformed into that already. When these stories could not be told, biographies, historical stories could not be told, formulas like a girl and a boy staring each other for a very long time, cultivating both tear and laughter and music clips made the content shallow. First, they began to lose their own audience, and then their popularity in other countries decreased. The series both contributed to the national economy and told our stories and culture to many countries that we could not reach before. We have never had such access that is beyond our borders. As the stories were cornered by censorship, productions were discouraged and dreams dwindled, the quality of the content declined and naturally, our access decreased.
What stage are we in now?
We’re trying to get back together. We know how to do a good job, but the issue we had was to be unable to tell an original story. When we shoot our own novels, for example, “Aşk-ı Memn u” (Forbidden Love) is the first modern Turkish novel and one of the first series of TRT. We re-shot the novel again as a TV Show and I am sure people will continue to re-shoot it in the future. How can you shoot a story that is called “forbidden love” if you apply censorship to the kissing scenes?
I wish we could do things like that. I guess there wasn’t a before and after?
Before we started producing our own series, we were under the influence of Telenovelas. The show draws inspiration from them.
If we call Aşk-ı Memnu a turning point, how was it before?
Before that, there was ” Hatırla Sevgili”. There is no way we can shoot a series like Hatırla Sevgili again.It deals with Turkey’s recent history and three revolutions. Then Fatmagül. Fatmagül, for example, is one of the most wide-spread shows in terms of geography amongst Turkish Tv shows. But on the other hand, it reached homes regardless of any cultural level. Channels also have effects like that. Fatmagül was able to start a women’s movement. Women in Germany gathered in their homes and watched it. A woman in Iran had the courage to divorce her husband after watching Fatmagül winning the rape case. It created a social awakening. It was a butterfly effect. It was an interesting time, I wake up one morning and I’m nominated for the best actor in Seul.(Laughing)
People don’t realize it, but the geography our series reaches is very interesting. It is also the reason why Netflix came to Turkey. They realized that the Turkish series had access to those geographies that the projects produced in America could not.
This was a breaking point for the industry.
Yeah. For us, such collaboration has been a breath of fresh air when we could not breathe.
A lot of female characters came into your life. They’re all very different from each other when you get to know them, and when you confront them as an actor, I am sure there’s always something that stays with Beren. In that sense, how does acting affect you?
It is tremendously pleasant but very painful too. Acting is a psychological laboratory. For you and for the people around you. You know a lot of people, you watch people, and it’s a never-ending job.When you are sleeping at night and experiencing something during the day , in every new person you meet, the lab work does not stop.Somehow it never ends. It’s always this case that they think you’re somebody else but they find someone else when they get to know you. The person you are before and after the project will never be the same. So I think that’s why the actors are thanking their partners in a very exaggerated way in their Oscar speeches. Because it’s a turbulent journey for the people around you too. It is not easy to live that life or to live a life with those people. It was my choice from the beginning that they were not alike. “Don’t follow the common path!” was my motto. I looked at my idols first but I also looked for what I had to do differently from them. Everyone in Yeşilçam had their own reputations, ideals attached to their names. They had preferences, rules that would protect them. There’s a big gap after that. We are in a period where singers and models are acting on TV. Cinema stopped. I made a choice over performance. I’ve always chosen to play different characters so they don’t know exactly who I am. So I don’t get bored with myself and my career, and people can’t decide exactly what I am. As a result, I could stay more exciting for many years.
So, you choose to be full of surprises?
Unexpected manoeuvres, taking risks, create another kind of excitement mechanism. It creates a strange anticipation. When they say “How can the whiney girl from “Hatırla Sevgili play Bihter?”, you say “Come on!” with a great defence mechanism. After playing a victim, I played a violence-prone woman. The other side of the coin. Acting is actually to find yourself in places you never imagined. A period drama, especially, is an extraordinary time journey. I am not just talking about thinking that the costumes are very romantic. It is amazing to see yourself in the places and atmospheres that you will never have the chance to be in .It provides an opportunity to examine the relationships and family structures of other periods. Every writer you work with provides you with an opportunity to embody a different persona. Even if the stories are different from each other, it is beneficial for both the author and the actor to not work with together all the time for many years. The discovery ends after we begin to predict each other. When the writer begins to write, predicting what you are going to play, the places that you can go for are also limited. What’s important to me is not to repeat myself and to discover people. I am in a constant battle with myself to expand my diameter. So I did not get stuck in the format the industry wants us to be transformed.
That’s very empathetic, isn’t it? Where’s it taking you? How does your professional experience affect your personality?
With all this information, I have become more intolerant in the normal course of life. Some people have a stronger contact with their consciousness than others. And when the nuances like reading the gestures brought about by acting come about, you have more layered ideas, but we as a society have an inclination to showcase ourselves in a bright light. We are a society that cannot be very honest with itself and its surroundings Although we say “We are very emotional.”, we tend to carve this sentiment into our advantage and polish it thus not being able to act naturally sentimental. I don’t want to witness this lie any more and I want to escape. When a person forms themselves a dishonest monologue, I don’t want to witness it. That’s why I rather having a few people in my life that are honest. It doesn’t matter if they are hurt or rude as long as they are rightminded. I rather spend an evening with three people who really love me, than taking photos in a beautiful dress at the door of a party with the most popular people and gaining hundreds of thousands of likes.
When you start to see unfiltered, separation and abstraction manifests itself step by step.
I was watching the second season of The Kominsky Method, Michael Douglas, in one of his lectures, was using the term “camping” to comment on areas where a person has no talent.That’s exactly what we do. People who have no ability to play a monologue are criticising actors. They are criticizing continuity.Those who download an app and make poor-quality music are criticizing musicians. Everyone who gets three likes is Miss Universe. Good for them, but I refuse to be a part of the system.
When there is an efficient attitude you can see that, for instance, this is how we felt when Alessandro Michelle became the head of Gucci, our hearts skipped a beat. A very classic brand was handled with a completely different language, something was changing and there is no need to be in the fashion industry to see that. Your conscience works beyond all the prejudices and traumas. People understand what’s good and embrace it aggregately.
It is unacceptable for people who cannot really do that, especially in the name of comedy, to insult what they cannot accomplish. After the demolishment caricature magazines, we accomplished something with social media. We said, if you can’t deal with humour, then we will make our voices heard with humour. This was a great fire, a great movement. On the one hand, it is impossible to understand why people who never create anything in their lives use humour to sound less offensive while criticizing something they’ve never done. Because anyone who accomplished something in their lives knows the hardships of the road, so they never criticize that brutally. But you have to accomplish at least one thing in your life to understand that. Criteria is just that! In our field, the criteria is to be acclaimed, to have an award, to have a project, to have a diploma… However you define it. Anyone who walked that road knows how painful it is. So, he/she does not criticize. We have beloved projects, catchphrases that stuck to people’s mouths. It feels good to be in a project that has become a legend with lines that means practically nothing like “Me, your Bihter?”.
You have to be authentic?
You shouldn’t rely on fame. Recently, I was giving a speech at the Bosphorus Film Festival. I found myself saying, “Fame, money, applause…They are results. They are the results of doing something good. But don’t let them be your objective.” The objective now is to be a celebrity. There are numerical targets like twenty thousand Instagram followers.
It has been the generation’s method of evaluating success. But social media is an open platform, can we say that if they have a million followers, there must be a reason?
They probably have an idea or guts.
Hasn’t social media been the main source of criticism?
We don’t know how to cheer for someone who has something good or be proud of each other.
Just because you succeeded doesn’t mean I failed.
Of course, but our official ideology is to marginalize. That’s something people do out of control. But we’re part of a whole. As one raises the bar, the others try to catch it. Competition is a positive motivation.
When the word gossip turns into a negative notion, tittle-tattle becomes a more sympathetic word but still the attitude doesn’t change. Instead of going and embracing that person and giving a positive criticism, a prejudice is created by denigrating the reputation of others in the form of a joke.
People are searching for flaws?
Looking for flaws has become a cultural habit. The element of Twitter is now completely transformed into that, to find flaws. I think humour should have manners because sarcasm is one of the most valuable gifts given to mankind. There must be a limit to the popularity of people who criticize from a loveless and disrespectful place that cannot do things on their own. We pollute our consciousness with all those toxic ideas. We don’t need to gossip to obtain a faster connection. Yeah, it takes some time, but our friendship would become truer.It is not right to hide behind shadows.
I guess everything starts with giving to much importance to yourself.
Everyone has an alternative. And everyone has an element. I dreamt a dream influenced by Selçuk Yöntem’s play and later became colleagues with him. Now it’s my turn to inspire children who admire me.
You lived your dream…
What more could it be? We are part of a big algorithm, we have an element. I was inspired by my idols, dreamt about something and moved forward. I took their ecole to a different level, now I’m a voice actor for animations.
Any advice for those who want to be an actor?
The world is developing, everything is changing… It is very important to keep yourself up to date. Acting is a very personal process, a very tedious way. People don’t tolerate. If they emulate me and enter this profession, I wish them patience to learn, succeed, applaud and do a good job. If you are disciplined and righteous, awards would find their way. As people discover themselves and discover how to come into contact with the collective consciousness, they would succeed in whatever field they’re in.
How important is for you to inspire?
There are a lot of Berens who are at the age of 8-9. I came across with many Berens with beautiful gazes. There is a sweet, bright army right there. You should not forget your element. We are a part of the stories we tell and they are projects that are made to reach people beyond ourselves. It’s important to know your space.You should not worship, think soo highly of yourself.
How do you perform your own function?
After the drones, hills became more accessible to anyone or maybe we got to see it a little bit. While thinking about how many likes you get or how popular you are, you should also think about the other 7.7 billion people. You should say, “Look how crowded we are and everyone is doing what you do” but what can I do differently, what can I do to contribute to humanity? This can be as simple as recycling, it may be writing an algorithm, inspiring a child, solving a problem… I perform my function by not being able to sleep comfortably without being sure that I am doing my best.
How does being a celebrity affects you?
Fame, being popular seems like this great thing until you become one yourself. Once you have fame, it feels like a prison, a cell.
How does this free spirit survive in a cell?
By reflecting on yourself. This is also a chance to discover a positive mechanism.You’re discovering yourself.This also brings another kind of freedom.
Are we getting lonely?
No one is really alone because of technology. In fact, young people prefer to be left alone in their fields, humanity tends to individualize. For example, how smart we use our smartphone is our choice. We should think about what can we actually learn from the phone in the palm of our hands, instead of looking at synthetic poses of happiness.
I think that if they’re happy, let them be. What do you think?
But, at the end of the day, those people are more unhappy than others. People who follow other people’s happy lives always feel like they’re missing something.
What kind of character is Atiye?
Atiye is a painter; Her relationship with her art is somewhat obsessive. She’s dedicated her entire career to drawing the same symbol. It’s like when she reaches the meaning of that symbol, she will reach the meaning of life. Seeing this symbol in the photographs of the temples at Göbeklitepe, Atiye’s artistic quest turns into a spiritual adventure. She meets the concept of collective unconsciousness and a handsome archaeologist. Thus, she begins to question her materialist world and discover her talent.
Were you interested in archaeology?
I can not say I had a special interest in archaeology like Atiye. Thanks to Atiye I had the opportunity to go to Göbeklitepe and Nemrut. It is a great chance to work in historical locations. Thousands of years ago, someone perceived that these were special energy points and left extraordinary artefacts for the latter. Touching some of the greatest artworks with Atiye’s reflexes told me that I was part of a much larger whole than I had anticipated. Atiye is a not-in-kind companion that both hurt me and deepens and nurtures me. I hope her path is clear, I hope she will be inspirational. I am grateful for her choosing me.
Is there a special moment you want to talk about?
We are having contacts that make us feel like we’re a part of the universe. I love acting in terms of perceiving and understanding many people. But I find it very painful because of all the empathy I felt and the information I accumulated in my emotional database. Atiye was a character that hurt me a lot and I also felt that deeply with Fatmagül and Ela. Some stories are bigger than you and should be told through popular culture for people to benefit from. I guess Atiye’s story will benefit a lot of women because, some “coincidences” were miraculously experienced in our set.