By Jimmy Cüneyt Gürkan - Meryem Uzerli is a Turkish-German actress and model who rose to prominence by playing Hürrem Sultan in the Turkish TV series The Magnificent Century (2011–2013), for which she received critical acclaim and won numerous accolades, including a Golden Butterfly Award. In 2012, she was chosen as the Woman of the Year by GQ Turkey. She was in Los Angeles for the Hollywood Turkish Film Festival, and Meryem Uzerli talked to TURKOFAMERICA.
We are currently in Los Angeles for the Hollywood Turkish Film Festival, and we are with Ms. Meryem Uzerli. Hello, Ms. Uzerli.
You came to Los Angeles for the Hollywood Turkish Film Festival. Could you please share your festival impressions with us?
Of course. This is the first Hollywood Turkish Film Festival. This year’s event marks the first of its kind. In this respect, this festival is of significant importance. In general, I believe all festivals around the world are of great importance because they gather different cultures under the same roof. For instance, on the occasion of this Turkish Film Festival here, prominent people working in Hollywood are benefiting from the opportunity to explore Turkish film art and industry as well as Turkish culture. Considering the politically volatile situation in the world in general, occasions of this kind represent a tremendous opportunity to spread a message of peace on a global scale. I wish all humanity could live in complete peace and harmony. I wish this from the bottom of my heart. We are a part of the world of art. Art is capable of removing all sorts of obstacles. I am more than glad to be a part of film art and industry. As you know, stories are told in movies. Those stories are not directly related to culture or anything else: they represent individuals. They tell the stories of and about people regardless of their nationalities. Art helps us transcend the borders, and eventually unites us. This is the reason why I believe that festivals of this kind are of significant importance, not only for Turkey and the United States, but also for all countries and nations in the world.
Alright. Let’s talk about yourself now if we may. You are a beloved actress in our eyes. How did you decide to become an actress? Why do you think acting fits your personality?
I actually never thought of a specific profession as I was growing up. When I was a kid, I remember telling my mother the following: “I am flooded by deep and intense emotions, and it is impossible for me to live all of them in my daily life”. This stems from the intensity of my inner world.
So acting gives you the opportunity to live all these intense emotions by embodying different characters.
True. However, I did not know such thing existed when I was a kid. I just asked my mother how I could live all those emotions deep inside, and how I could relate to them in my daily life. I asked her how this would be possible. As you might know, they provide arts-based education in some kindergardens in Germany. They are named Waldorf schools. Those schools have their own theaters, concert halls etc., and their pedagogical philosophy is very arts-based. I started to attend those schools at the age of 3. Since their kindergardens and primary schools are combined, I kept attending and started to develop an interest in acting. Then I studied acting, and did theatrical performances. That is how I got the ball rolling and eventually became an actress. Acting provided me with the opportunity of not only living in my daily life those emotions that are inherent in my nature, but also reflecting and embodying different psychological moods.
How do you gauge success as an actress?
The definition of success might vary depending on different perspectives people adopt on their own lives. For me, success does not equal to making lots of money. For instance, you might be working in a project that does not artistically represent you, yet you might be making money. On the contrary, you might have very little money, yet you might be working in great projects. In such situation, the notion of success evaluation actually does not exist for me. In my opinion, being successful equals to waking up in the morning, going to a theatrical performance center or a movie set, and feeling the character 100% that an actor is going to embody. In short, becoming one with that character. If I am able to say “yes, I put 100% of my energy and soul to the character I am embodying” when I lay my head on the pillow at night after coming back home from the movie set, and then I consider myself successful and this is exactly how I gauge success.
Not only in your acting career, but in your professional life in general, what are the most three important elements of success for you?
Since we are talking about acting now, first I am going to say “knowing oneself very well”. Of course this might not apply to bank officers. As far as acting is concerned, being “self-reflected” is so very important. If you are well aware of your feelings inside, you can better focus on yourself. In short, I am going to say, first, “being at peace with oneself” and “knowing oneself very well”. Second, being bold. I am not referring to thinking big here. What I mean is feeling deeply those emotions that are inherent in one’s nature and showing them, displaying them. One should not be afraid of this. Questions such as “I wonder how I might look like when acting this or that role...” should not cross your mind. One should pay more attention to his or her interior world than the visual world. Third, “keeping oneself in emotional balance”. The more overwhelmed you are, the better you should be able to escape this overwhelmedness in order to maintain your emotional balance. An actor should be able to distinguish his or her private life from the character s/he is embodying. I believe these three elements are crucial.
When were you most proud of your career?
I remember teling my parents “now I am going to leave by this door and study acting”. I was born and raised in Kassel, a small city with a population of 200.000 people. Then I went to Hamburg by myself to study acting. I was very young. My parents were doubtful. They were wondering whether acting was the best fit for me, whether I could be successful and survive by myself in Hamburg. In my school in Hamburg, there was a theater performance in my first semester. My parents had the opportunity for the first time to see me professionally acting. They were sitting in the front row, I remember. At that moment, I felt that I was successfully embodying the character I was supposed to act in the theatre play. This made me really proud.
What do you think you lack most as an actress?
Sometimes I have poor concentration.
Actors must possess various attributes and skills. You have just mentioned something negative. What is your strongest skill as an actress?
I can say that there is a strong and wild “beast” inside me.
How does this “beast” expose itself, and to what?
It is an emotional beast. If I can press on the right button, the power inside me releases itself, and I can make the most of it. When I said that I lack concentration, I actually meant that I sometimes have difficulties in finding this right button, and this prevents me from releasing that power. Sometimes the power releases itself, but it takes time.
If there was no Meryem Uzerli, what would be missing in this world?
Nothing would be missing. I guess my family and friends would feel less love. I hope I am giving them the love they deserve. Nevertheless, I think nothing would be missing if, for instance, they did not know that I am here. Thank God, I am surrounded by many people who are here for me, and I am here for them.
How you define fame?
The notion of fame is actually created by the media. The media can exalt you to the skies one day, and can cause you fall from grace the other day. I do not establish a connection with the media. Of course, it is part of my job to be a part of it. Actors give interviews and the entire world talks about them thanks to the media.
So, you are saying that it is not real.
It is a real part of your job.
However, it is not a real part of your emotions maybe?
No, it actually does not affect me emotionally. Since I do not follow who is writing what about me, it does not affect me. What counts for me is whether the audience is satisfied with my performance. We are human beings, and we all possess an emotional world deep inside us. We, actors, exist with the aim of embodying and acting somebody else’s emotional world. The audience should be able to find something about themselves. This is why the audience is very important for me. I am not interested in whom the media is popularizing and about whom it is gossiping.
What is the biggest prejudice you hear and feel about yourself?
I have an accent in Turkish (laughing). I have been working on that for years. However, I think you are asking this question mostly related to my personality. The first time I did such a big scale performance was in Muhteşem Yüzyıl (The Magnificent Century). After all, I studied acting, performed in theater plays for about ten years and worked in many projects. Sometimes people think that it is not success if it is not a big project that is at stake. Sometimes you might have 500 people in the audience, sometimes 5, and sometimes even zero. I do not think about prejudices.
What is it that you do not like most about yourself? Are there times when you say “Meryem, stop doing this!” to yourself?
I think sometimes I lack self-confidence. This bothers me. And so does impatience.
Where do you see yourself in five years? In terms of your career, and as Meryem?
In five years, I would like to live in a house, married, hopefully will have had my second child. I want a well-established family life. I am constantly traveling by plane with my child. I do not have a quiet life at the moment. I like having a quiet life, being home. Hopefully I will have it in five year’s time. Regarding the professional aspect, I would love to act in one or two good movies per year, and work in a television series project acting a great character. Or maybe in a theater play. I would also love to take some time away from acting from some time to time. What I mean is striking a fine balance between career and private life.
Are there any upcoming projects that make you feel excited?
A thriller project by Özcan Deniz, Öteki Taraf (The Other Side). I truly enjoyed working in that project. I acted a great character. It is a beautiful story. I am looking forward to its release.
We always ask our guests to give us a question so that we could ask that question for our next guest in our interviews. We do not know who is going to be our next guest yet, but can we have a question from you? We will share your question in our next interview saying that “this question was asked by Meryem Uzerli”.
Okay. Let me ask first: Who asked what for me for this interview? (Laughing)
There was indeed a question for you but I completely forgot; I do not remember it at the moment (Laughing).
Alright. Here is my question: What is your biggest fear and what do you do to overcome it?
Cool! Thank you very much. We actually have a magazine and our target audience is Turkish-American society. Would you like to share a last message with our readers?
Take good care of yourselves. Life is a precious gift from God. No matter how difficult it might be, try to think of it as a gift. God bless you. I wish you all the success, happiness, and joy in life.
Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure.
Pleasure is mine. Thank you!