We cross paths with Birkan Sokullu on a summer evening. He candidly tells us about how he began his career with basketball and continued with acting by saying, “As you make plans, life makes other plans for you.” We cannot wait to talk about more things with Birkan who reminds us about the spirit of basketball with the Nike’s “Çık Oyna” campaign.
How did your passion for basketball begin?
When I was a kid, I’d watch NBA games and would mimic them at the basketball court of the nearest school. I’d play basketball in the street and everywhere. when my father saw this in me, he took me to a youth recruit of a professional team. I got elected and began my career in basketball at the age of 11 with a youth team. I cannot forget the feeling of being on the court that day. I was mesmerized. It was my biggest passion back then. I’d always dream of becoming a professional. I planned my entire life around this dream. I was a fan of Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to watch the game live. My childhood and youth was filled with basketball memories. After playing about a year as a professional, I made a decision that it’d be best if it stayed as a sport for me. But I played in the school team until I finished college. After graduation, I left playing in a regular team.
What is basketball’s role in your life right now?
My love for basketball still continues. I play by myself a couple of times a week. Sometimes we throw a match with some friends. It’ll always be a part of my life. I only focus on the game when I’m in the court. It’s sort of meditative for me. For someone who’s been a team player for a long time, discipline and the ability to share always bring you joy in every aspect of life. You continue to feel the effects of that culture whatever your new profession is. I can say that I experienced this with acting as well. I’m also a good spectator, and an avid follower of EuroLeague and NBA. I enjoy watching it a lot.
You partake in the “Çık Oyna” campaign. How does sport contribute to your life and surrounding?
Nowadays fewer people do sports. With the campaign, we wanted to encourage people to engage in sports. It’s contributed positively to my life both physically and mentally. I’m happy to have a habit since my early years.
What led you to acting?
As you make plans, life makes other plans for you. And it introduced me to this profession although I had no idea of doing it. I can say that I kind of got hooked after a while. But I wasn’t planning to or was led to this profession. It was pure luck. I was educated for what’s going on behind the camera but I suddenly found myself in front of it and wanted to try how it’d go. Then I discovered that I had a knack for acting and the rest followed. At the end of the day, I’m thankful for having a job I love.
”We kind of become the psychiatrists of our roles. I always imagine how my character would be – his past, present, traumas…”
You can put your preferences of life at the heart of your professional choices. We know that this brings along a bigger self-sacrifice than usually known. How was your story?
It requires patience to be a part of something I’m enjoying. I’ve tried to make my decisions based on that principle since the day I started acting. That’s why I took some long gaps. I also know that the expectations about acting have also changed along the way and some of them were disappointments. It’s sometimes hard to maintain this attitude in these unexpected conditions and to embed my preferences into what I’m doing. But I don’t intend to give up on this unless I really have to.
You say that preparing for a role is the most enjoyable part of acting for you. Can you tell us about the process from the time you accept a role and to the first day on the set? What is your criteria in evaluating a role and what kind of preparation do you follow?
It makes me excited to get ready for a character. It’s like kind of solving a puzzle. I pull the script apart and try to analyze the character from various perspectives. We kind of become the psychiatrists of our roles. I always imagine how my character would be – his past, present, traumas… I feel relaxed after I figure out his motivations and do the last touches on the set. I prefer to finish all this before the set though.
Do you think Internet has given a space of freedom for actors?
I definitely think so. Producers abandoned the usual rhythm of TV audience and started doing things with more effort and better stories. There’s an improved quality in works. After making TV projects for which we strived to fit long scenarios into a short period of time, it’s become a great alternative for all people involved.
What do you think about the changing ways of how we use screens?
An alternative screen system has also become a luxury for the audience. Of course it depends on the quality of selected works on new platforms. I watch some with good content and I come across amazing selections.
What would you expect from a good series?
First, you have to have a great story and script. The duration should be about 45-50 minutes. Although it’s very hard to achieve a certain quality in long scripts, we occasionally read some lovely stuff. It should have a good director to whom I can trust to save the world and who can communicate well with the team and the cast. I’m also careful about the project design of the work. We see some with a great project design. I think we should pay a bit more attention to this in the industry.
Your next project Yaşamayanlar is the first vampire series in Turkey. We know that shooting is almost done. What kind of a visual world and story awaits us? What would you like to tell us about it?
It’s exciting to see such a brave production in the country for the first time. I guess we’ll be offering the audience with great visuals. I haven’t seen anything except for a few scenes. But I can tell you that it’ll be visually satisfying. We have a great scenario, a great director, a great cast and well-written characters. I believe that the outcome of these will be a pleasure thing to watch.
Have you ever watched a vampire series before?
I’ve never watched anything about vampires except for a few movies. We had a meeting with the director before we started and he convinced me about the character, the story and the world he’s building. During this time, I had the opportunity to watch a lot of fantastic productions. I learned a lot about the fantastic genre thanks to Yaşamayanlar. I was excited by the idea to have such a production in my career.
Your biggest dream as an actor?
I wouldn’t mind an award from Cannes! (laughs)
We know that traveling is one of your biggest passions in life. Can you tell us about the city that influenced you the most?
I love traveling. I try to go someplace whenever I have the opportunity. I’ve seen a lot of cities but I was impressed by Rome in terms of architecture and art, and by Berlin for how respectful and civilized people were towards each other’s freedom.
Bits and pieces
The food you order the most?
Bass teppanyaki and steamed rice.
Which website is in your daily radar?
A film you’ll watch again and again?
The best cinematic adaptation of a book?
An application you cannot give up?
Which song you could listen forever?
I cannot choose a song but a Miles Davis album could play on forever.
Your morning routine?
Coffee and music after breakfast.