Original interview in Esquire Turkiye, Summer 2019 Edition
We have on our cover page ‘a new charming and talented actor ‘; the biggest talk of the town among all TV actors; the one that the film and series industry has been waiting for: Akin Akinozu. We loved the actor who has gained tons of fans thanks to his role in the previous season of Hercai, more when we got to know him better. You will see that he has a lot more things to say when you read the interview.
Enjoy your read!
Interview by: Ozge Dinc
Photographs by: Mehmet Erzincan
Fashion Editor: Tugce Kilincli
Translation by: Sena Ikizoglu
In 2014, Akin Akinozu had played in a Croatia-Slovenia made movie called “Azrail” then in Muhtesem Yuzyil Kosem, Abdulhamit Payitaht and Arkadaslar Iyidir but it would be fair to say that Turkey discovered him with the series Hercai. Comments about him on the social media platforms (a fan of him had taken a lock of his hair from the hairdresser where he had cut his hair), the romantic clips from the series that are shared, and almost 2 million Instagram followers, are proof of this success.
I hardly recognized the man I know as Miran from Hercai. I told Akin Akinozu who transformed from a brunette lad to a brave man, “Apparently, your new look is loved more.” He said, “As someone who has chosen acting as a profession, I feel lucky about this. Because even the slightest change to my beard and my hair can dramatically change my appearance. You might say that I’m seizing that opportunity with this project. I had made the decision to cut my hair and grow my beard before this project. But this renewed style opened the door to the character of Miran, whom I wouldn’t be offered to portray if I still had my old look. On the other hand, saying that this new look is loved more doesn’t reflect the truth because it's Miran, the one I portray with my new image, who is loved more.”
He has a point because Miran took his place in the list of “all-time-favorite-TV characters”. Hercai, of which I watched all episodes before this interview, is a story based on revenge. Miran was written as a character who initially sets out for revenge but then falls in love with Reyyan. And he turns the impossible into the possible just to protect her and to make amends.
Young girls especially love him a lot because he sees nothing else but Reyyan. In his words “I can’t breathe if a day passes without seeing Reyyan.” I told Akin Akinozu who portrays a passionate and fierce character raised on stories of vengeance, “ As a naturally calm man, it must be hard to play a character who has intense emotional transitions.” He replied, “Your observation is on point.” “Miran has much more intense emotions than I have on a daily basis. The reason is that his circumstances are different. And these differences are the factors that excite me to discover the character, and the viewers to watch him. Therein lies the magic of our job. Tasting, and making others taste, more intense feelings than the ones we taste in our daily lives. I’m grateful that I have a job in which I can achieve all of this, and one which is worth all the effort.”
I asked “So, have you ever taken revenge? How do you react to wrongdoing?” He related to me that he is against revenge: “As I've gotten older, my notion of good and bad has changed.” He said, “What we call ‘bad’ may lead to something ‘good’ when we look at the bigger picture . If we lack the awareness and try to avenge the bad in a destructive way, that not only harms us, but the bad we want to fight against gets stronger.”
I know it’s wrong to compare a character in a series to the actor who plays him, but I wonder whether he (Akin) is passionate too. Does he also believe that love can overcome literally everything just as it can in the series? “If you are not passionate, if you don’t risk everything for the one you love, if logic gets in the way, then it’s not love and you’re not a lover.” He said “I don’t believe in ‘love overcoming everything’ but in ‘overcoming everything for love’.”
While defining love, passion comes to mind first, whereas a relationship is a more complicated process where you act after thinking. I asked Akin if he agrees with this or not. How does he define an ideal relationship? He replied saying, “One day, I saw an advice letter that a father wrote for his son in regards to marriage. In his letter he wrote that we are all born into this world with a good heart but the more we experience the merciless, tough and heartbreaking sides of life, the more our egos build a wall around our hearts. And the purpose of marriage should be to tear down these walls built by ego between two people’s hearts. Consequently, an ideal relationship for me is one where I can pull the stones from the wall around my heart out one by one... so that eventually I can live openly, with full abandon, and free.”
The most shocking information I learned when I read his previous interviews was that he studied Mathematics at UC Berkeley. I can’t help but wonder about the backstory of this abrupt change from studying Mathematics in one of the best universities in the world to giving up on it and becoming an actor. “My mother, as a conservatoire graduate, had wanted me to go to a conservatoire in order to discover if I have a talent for acting. But I chose to take a different path to meet with her in the same profession. My desire to study Mathematics started with the motivation to sustain the joy I feel when I solve problems. Later, this desire for discovery led me to UC Berkeley, a university that provides one of the best mathematics program in the world. Since mathematics exist everywhere, learning this universal language made me a person who perceives and understands life better. In my senior year, I figured out that I wanted to use the skills I gained from studying mathematics towards acting. Because acting provides me with an enormous arena for solving the hardest problem- the human problem- by taking my own existence as an example. Before I played my first role I said, ‘This is the job I want!’”
For Akinozu, who had chosen mathematics and acting to understand life, understanding himself was another phase of his curiosity. No doubt, the reason behind going to the USA alone, at the age of 17, was this curiosity: “ I went to the USA as a 17 years old child and returned to my country a 23 years old individual capable of standing on his own two feet. I have a lot of memories from those 6 years of transition -from adolescence to adulthood. For example, one of the memories that I keep recalling is trying to tell people how my name should be pronounced: ‘A kin, like, a kin do it’. Now, looking back at those times, I see clearly that saying this unconsciously made me stronger. Because one can find the strength to do anything when they say ‘I can’.
I asked him which movies he keeps watching over and over again. My purpose was to learn the genre he loves. He told me that he is an admirer of Christopher Nolan. I should have guessed that someone who studied mathematics would admire a director who directed movies such as Inception, Interstellar and Memento. His favorite movie is The Matrix. He began by saying, “I frequently rewatch movies that I've seen before because one can draw a different conclusion from the same movie when they get older. ‘The Matrix’ was one of those movies where I experienced this situation deeply. As a matter of fact I found myself in the adventure of acting afterwards. I prefer watching movies because of their director. I hope one day I come across Christopher Nolan and I can play a role in one of his movies.” When I asked about which director he would like to work with in Turkey, he gave the name ‘Nuri Bilge Ceylan’. “I believe that the sets of his movies are like a school for actors and actresses. The behind-the-scenes footage of Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da and Kis Uykusu are like a stand-alone acting lesson.”
When it comes to cinema, he is a Nolan fan. But does he have an all-time idol? He replied without thinking: “Ataturk.” He said that Ataturk’s presumptions about the film industry -which was merely in its establishment phase at that time- are enough to view him as an idol. Let’s remember, Ataturk had said this about the film industry in 1913: “Cinema is a milestone for the world of the future. Radio and cinema, which now seem to be basic entertainment elements, are going to change the facade of the world. A woman in Japan, a person in America, are going to understand what an Eskimo says. The printing press, gun powder and the discovery of America, which closed and opened eras in history, will mean nothing compared to the discovery of radio and cinema when it comes to making the world global and united.”
Sports are indispensable to him. He said that doing sports is essential to feeling mentally, spiritually and physically healthy. He said that as long as he does sports he feels happy everywhere. But lately, he has been spending all his leisure time with his family rather than for his hobbies. His relocation to the Hercai set in Midyat leaves him with very little free time.
While he and the crew filmed Hercai non-stop in magical Midyat, the Hercai storm hit all other cities of Turkey. In the first episode people asked “Who is this guy?” and by the second episode he already had fans. Being loved so much, being followed suddenly by 2 million people on your account is a joy not everyone can experience. While at the same time it must be limiting. I wonder, is Akin more conscious of his action now than before? Maybe a little, but he doesn’t complain: “ It’s so motivating when your work is appreciated and get attention from a wide population. But it also means taking the responsibility of a huge family. Especially since due to social media, millions of people who follow you, build a bond between you and themselves, and become a part of your life. Undoubtedly, this puts a pressure on me when millions of people follow my every step so closely. But I know that this pressure will strengthen the connection between me and the values which make me who I am. It will allow me to leave a more permanent and more distinctive footprint.”
The first thing on Akin’s to-do-list is “to travel to a lot of places”. He loves Midyat, where he has stayed for months while filming the series. And he is very impressed by these types of historical and mysterious places. “I’ve been curious about the Pyramids of Egypt since childhood. I haven’t found time to visit there yet but I have a feeling that when I visit, I will discover something no one has discovered before.” He said, laughing.
I asked him what his close friends and relatives mostly complain about. He said, “Sometimes I become too obsessive. I need to learn to ease my obsessions.” It goes without saying that someone who studied Mathematics and loves Christopher Nolan also must be question the future of this world. His answer to my question “ Which subject you would be an activist of?” justified my theory: “In my opinion, being an activist starts with living a life which suits the resolution of the problem you want to address. Based on this philosophy, I’m always on the lookout for actions which can solve the problems I care about. I try to live life this way. The list starts with my carbon footprint which I reduced, and my dog which I adopted from a shelter.”
He has been living a pescatarian life for a while, namely, he doesn’t consume meat except fish or milk and milk-based products. I asked if it’s an ethical choice or not. “Actually, I started doing this diet after questioning my consumption of meat.” He related to me,”It started with me asking myself if I can live without eating meat. And after a month-long trial period without eating meat, I felt much better in every way. Then I decided to live the rest of my life like this. Afterwards, while raising my own awareness on the effect of meat consumption on global warming, owing to the documentaries I watched and the research I conducted, I was sure of the ethical side of my decision too.”
I thought that he might have a hard time in Turkey where there are mostly meat-based meals. He said that Turkish cuisine is very vegetable rich: “You understand the richness of Turkish cuisine better when you start to see other types of meals apart from the ones that include meat.”
Akin, who is decisive about his thoughts and choices, prefers to be flexible in the flow of life : “Because” he said “just like Mike Tyson says, ‘everybody has a plan until they are punched in the face.’”
We only had one day with him to do the photoshoot for the cover. We were going to be on a national holiday right after the photoshoot and then Akin was going to fulfill his military service. I’m writing this while he is in the military.
Hercai, pieces together a lot of elements which attract the attention of most viewers; a historical city, a mansion, a passionate love, a strong and loving man, a dominant mother, women who fight injustice (if we take into consideration that a lot of series like Asmali Konak and Sila are so loved). But the plot-making process of this series is not typical. Just as Busra Kucuk’s online novel Kotu Cocuk was turned into a film after it was read more than 100 million times, Hercai also came to light as an internet novel. I’m thinking about the underlying reasons why Hercai- which Sumeyye Koc published on Wattpad, then published as a book by Epsilon Publishing and is which is now broadcasted as a TV series- is so loved. Does the interest in this series indicate our pursuit of a passionate love? Does it make us happy to watch love overcome everything? How much does the fact that the on-screen love is shared by Akin Akinozu and Ebru Sahin affect this interest?
It can be inferred from the last episode and Akin’s Instagram post caption which was inspired by his line in the series “If you let me, I can rewrite this story from scratch in the next season” that we are going to see Miran do everything to be forgiven. In a phase where the series of our well-known, charming and talented actors have a short half life, this is another thing which I’m curious about: Is he the new charming and talented actor we’ve been waiting for?
If we get back to the matter of ‘not-making-any-plans’ which he pointed out with Mike Tyson’s quote, Akin, who is 29 now, sees the future in the same way. He doesn’t see the future as a far off destination but as a solid time where each piece should be embraced. And the purpose is not to make plans for a blurry moment but to live each day that comes to its fullest. He finds a quote of Abraham Lincoln to be very meaningful regarding this subject. He said “Lincoln says ‘The best aspect of the future is that the days come one by one’ “ and he added “I hope to embrace the coming days one by one and with excitement.”
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