THOSE familiar with Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s moving 2016 film Mustang will be aware of İlayda Akdogan’s natural on-screen presence and talent. These are qualities that İlayda is now putting to use on her popular YouTube channel and Turkish television show Dolunay.
James Prestridge of Close-up Culture caught up with İlayda to reflect on Mustang and talk about the exciting moves she has made since the film.
Q: We are now a few years removed from Mustang. How do you reflect on being part of such a special project?
A: IT still feels amazing. I cannot believe how time passes by. Mustang was my first movie – I was 16. I feel really blessed to have lived such a special, powerful and enjoyable experience.
Q: Mustang dealt with the treatment of women in rural Turkey. What is the current climate like for women in Turkey? And, for you, what has been your experience as a woman in the Turkish entertainment industry?
A: IT is not good – in both the rural and urban areas of Turkey. Actually it is worse than before because we have yet to see anything done to change the situation. For me, it is easier – I have my own car, I hang around places that are “safe” and I meet people that have the same vision of the world as me.
In the entertainment industry, there is a certain image of women. Actually there is an image for men too but from my perspective you are on the TV and big screen, so you need to look good in all ways. Your skin needs to look good, your hair, your body – you need to be like a “woman” in particular ways. It is not just Turkey’s problem, it is a worldwide industry problem. But there is not as much bad treatment for women in the entertainment industry.
Q: I am sure you have loads of them, but do you have any memories or stories you can share from your time working on Mustang?
A: I HAVE tons of memories, but one of the strongest stories is when we were at the Cannes Film Festival. It was our first festival as a team and we were going to watch the movie for the first time. We were crying at the beginning (of course!) but at the end the whole theatre was crying with us. They clapped and screamed for fifteen minutes and it was so emotional and so strong.
We were proud and happy because we knew that we were sharing this story with tons of people.
Q: Are you still in contact with Deniz Gamze Ergüven or any of your cast mates?
A: OF course. I was with Güneş (Lale) about 10 days ago and now I am looking forward to seeing Tuğba (Selma). She is coming from Paris to visit me for 10 days. A reunion!
Q: Since Mustang, you have become a regular on TV show Dolunay. Can you tell us about your role on the show and how you have found that experience?
A: IN The beginning, I did not want to be part of the project because I was not sure about the scenario and my character. But then I became addicted to playing Asuman (my character).
She is so funny, such a troublemaker and energetic young girl. It is so much fun to be a part of this team.
The most important thing for me while shooting something is having a real connection with the crew because I see them as my family. We have such a young and energetic crew and it was wonderful to work with them. I cried a lot when we shot the last episode.
Q: You have also created a YouTube channel and I really enjoyed watching your recent ‘Car Talk’. Please talk about your channel and what you enjoy about being able to create your own content and connect with fans?
A: I AM glad you liked the Car Talk [smiles]. I am a huge YouTube watcher. I watch it every single day for hours. I really enjoy it and like capturing moments and editing, so I thought: Why not have my own channel?
I created my own channel when we were travelling the world with Mustang but it did not go as planned because the most important thing is consistency. Now we are doing this with my boyfriend. We post once a week.
I really like to connect and interact with people. Also we are adding English subtitles to all of our videos so we can connect with more people from around the world. After Mustang I met with so many people from different countries.
Also Turkish TV attracts fans from across the world. Social media is such an important thing nowadays and I really want my channel and social media accounts to be global.
Q: On the topic of social media, you also have an incredible Instagram page. What is your lifestyle like and what brings you happiness?
A: THERE is hard work behind my Instagram page so I am really happy to hear this. My life is pretty active and nomad [smile]. My car is like my second home. I keep my luggage in my car because I am always changing locations and staying in different houses. Although I am now planning to have my own place so I can be more stable and focus on future plans.
Also being immersed in nature, hanging out with animals, eating, being active, enjoying adrenaline and travelling – I love, love, love, love airports. My boyfriend, family and friends are bringing happiness to my life everyday.
Q: Do you have any ambitions to work in America or elsewhere? What do you see in your future?
A: I WOULD love to. I definitely want to work in other countries. I do not think we need to stay in the same area until death. I do not have any plans right now but I have dreams, so it is a good start I think.
Q: You have a role in the upcoming feature Glaubenberg. What can you tell us about this?
A: I HAVE a small role in Glaubenberg. We shot the movie in Izmır, Turkey. It was just for two days but it was so much fun. I really love Thomas Imbach – he is an incredible person and such an inspiring director. It was wonderful to work with him. I am looking forward to seeing the movie.
Q: Do you have any other upcoming projects we should keep an eye out for?
A: FOR now, there is nothing. I am reading scripts, doing auditions and meeting with people for the new season. At the moment I am focusing on my YouTube channel until I sign up for a new TV series or movie!