by Paola Cesarini
In July 2019, Barış Arduç walked across the main stage of the Beirut International Awards Festival (BIAF) in the majestic Martyrs’ Square, to receive the prestigious “Best Male Actor of the Year” award. His posture was noble, his elegance immaculate and his stride confident. He delivered his acceptance speech in impeccable English. Once again, the unassuming and intensely private Turkish actor was making an impression. But for the first time, he was standing before a live global audience.
Barış’ current and well-deserved success did not happen overnight. Born in Switzerland in 1987, he moved to Turkey as a young boy. Unfortunately, it was just in time to experience the devastating 1999 Izmit earthquake, which displaced his entire family. Following a brief experience as a student at the Kayseri Erciyes University Sports Academy, Barış began his on-camera acting and theatrical training. He also worked for many years as a lifeguard in Şile. Between 2011 and 2014, he took on several secondary TV roles. While none of the series he participated in achieved high ratings, Barış always managed to distinguish himself for his acting skills.
At 23, he earned his first role as a supporting character in the series “Küçük Hanımefendi”. Then, in 2012, he made a strong impression when he briefly impersonated Trabzonspor soccer enthusiast Ahmet Avcıoğlu in “Benim İçin Üzülme” (see photo). People also took notice of Barış in 2013, when he played businessman Selim Bayraktar, in “Bugünün Saraylısı”. In 2014, he made his cinematic debut in the very last scene of the film “Sadece Sen”. Finally, in 2015, he received his first role as a co-lead in a TV series, interpreting the wise and devoted Tekin Atan in the unfortunately short-lived “Racon: Ailem İçin”. The first obvious turning point in Barış Arduç’s career came in 2014, when he played the supporting role of handsome, but somewhat smug photographer Cemil Şirinceli in the successful movie “Deliha”. In that film, he worked alongside Gupse Özay, an actress, comedian, screenwriter and director, who became virtually unrecognizable to play her role.
The second and most pivotal professional opportunity emerged in the summer of 2015, when he was offered the leading role of charismatic designer Ömer Iplikçi in the hit romantic comedy “Kiralık Aşk”, opposite to Elçin Sangu. The series brought him widespread fame both at home and abroad, earning him two consecutive Altin Kelebek Awards (the Turkish version of the Oscars), including one for Best Actor in a Comedy. As Ömer Iplikçi, Barış is reminiscent of a Turkish personification of the two famous cinematic Grays (i.e. John from “9 1⁄2 Weeks” and Christian from “50 Shades of Grey,”) minus the sadomasochistic tendencies. Ömer is gorgeous, sexy, talented, smart, sophisticated, accomplished, powerful, disciplined and introvert. He is also something of a control freak. At the same time, he is generous, kind and artistically talented. Barış Arduç does a masterful job of interpreting the innumerable nuances of Ömer’s complex personality, often without the support of any dialogue. Barış also portrays Ömer as a profoundly endearing man, whose carefully built defenses progressively crumble before the inevitability of true love. Chased at every turn by rich, beautiful and ambitious women, Ömer falls instead for Defne, an attractive but completely unsuitable girl.
Defne is everything Ömer is not. She comes from a traditional family and lives in a lower class neighborhood. She is insufficiently educated, emotional, spontaneous and aggressive. But she is also authentic, innocent and loving in ways that Ömer has not experienced since his mother’s death. Their irresistible romance is a well-scripted, continuous source of contradiction. It is tender yet passionate, authentic yet based on pretense, serene yet unpredictable, generally humorous yet at times tragic. This is why, once laid bare, Defne’s lies pierce Ömer’s very soul, momentarily obfuscating what he knows in his heart to be true. Namely that, had it not been for her initial deceit, their worlds would never have collided. And, in turn, he would have been perpetually condemned to a monotonous and loveless existence.
*Screening edition Kiralık Aşk
“Kiralık Aşk” utilizes several tropes often found in Turkish dizi: rich melancholy boy in love with pure/innocent girl; male boss falling for his female subordinate; modernity vs. tradition; meddling family members and loyal but annoying friends; sexy ex-girlfriends and dashing rival male suitors, etc., etc. However, while the show’s storyline is eminently predictable, the unbelievable chemistry between the two protagonists is not. Alternating between comedy and drama, Barış Arduç and Elçin Sangu light the screen with an intensity rarely seen on TV. Their recurrent nonsensical dialogue becomes fully intelligible thanks to their intense facial expressions, unbearable silences, penetrating stares and unmistakable body language, even in the most minimal of gestures. Causing fans all over the world to believe in love again, Defne and Ömer have become iconic characters in the world of Turkish fiction, setting incredibly high and hard to replicate standards for the rom-com genre.
In 2017, Barış Arduç starred again with Elçin Sangu in the romantic comedy “Mutluluk Zamanı”. On the wave of “Kiralık Aşk”‘s fame, the film was a box office success.
*Clip from Mutuluk Zamani
After a long break from the cameras, Barış Arduç returned to television in early 2019 with the drama “Kuzgun”. In this series, he plays the role of a poor, angry and traumatized young man, who is fully bent on revenge. For a young and handsome actor, continuing to impersonate roles in the rom-com genre that brought him to fame is both safe and lucrative, while switching to drama presents significant risk. And yet, to his credit, Barış embraced the risk. His choice seems to have paid off, as his “Kuzgun” performance earned him accolades among his peers, as well as a BIAF Award. Moreover, “Kuzgun” offered by far the best TV series screenplay of 2018-19, as well as outstanding performances by the entire cast. It is perhaps for these reasons that the show will thankfully return for a second season in the Fall of 2019.
After falling in love with charismatic Ömer, it is really hard to like Barış as Kuzgun. Early in the series, we learn that, following unspeakable family tragedy and heart-wrenching abandonment, Kuzgun grew up alone in the streets of Nevşehir. Over time, he turned into a ruthless, implacable, vindictive and manipulative young man, who is also prone to violence. After twenty years, he finally returns home to implement a carefully elaborated scheme. He plans to lure his childhood friend Dila (beautifully interpreted by Burcu Biricik) close to him again, so that he may infiltrate her powerful family and — in turn — exact revenge for the unimaginable hardship he was forced to endure. Everything proceeds according to plan, except for one minor detail. Because Kuzgun’s feelings for Dila apparently never faded, he unexpectedly finds himself falling in love with the adult version of his childhood sweetheart.
While the first season left viewers with both a broken heart and a brutal cliffhanger, it also revealed the full extent of Barış Arduç’s remarkable talent. Few series get darker than “Kuzgun”. Because the Turkish actor possessed little experience as a dramatic lead, the expectations around his performance were low. Already in episode one, however, an unforgettable scene introduces us to Barış Arduç’s outstanding new dramatic persona. Kuzgun is waiting outside the Kapadokya Airport for Dila’s arrival. He looks nervous and somewhat annoyed. And then, during a minute-long, silent, close-up camera sequence, a series of almost imperceptible changes in Kuzgun’s facial expression reveals the full impact of the occasion. As he first catches sight of Dila, instant recognition is followed by shocked admiration. Then, as the memories of their shared past hit him like a wave, his gaze grows increasingly warm, almost affectionate. Eventually, an unconscious, elusive smile begins to take shape on his lips, only to be decisively stifled once he remembers the true reason for their reunion.
Following this first memorable scene, Barış offers many more remarkable dramatic performances, in which Kuzgun alternates between ruthlessness and vulnerability, irony and cynicism, love and hate, and hope and desperation. The most moving sequences in the series involve the death of Kuzgun’s best friend, and the painful dialogues with Meryem — the mother who allegedly abandoned him. The most hopeful moments deal instead with Kuzgun’s rapprochement with his two siblings. Barış’ acting takes viewers on a wild ride every time Kuzgun allows himself to grow closer to Dila or his family, or falls victim of betrayal at the hands of those he most desperately seeks to trust. But he also manages to lighten the mood with his recurrent banter with Dila, and his poorly concealed jealousy of her.
Fans will always remember Barış Arduç for his remarkable interpretation of Ömer Iplikçi in “Kiralık Aşk”. However, it is his impersonation of Kuzgun that is solidifying his reputation as a brilliant and versatile actor, willing and able to play challenging roles. While his outward appearance between Ömer and Kuzgun varies minimally, the posture, facial expressions, diction, style and mannerisms evolve radically. In short, Kuzgun is the opposite of Ömer. True, both characters are smart, introverted, wounded, determined and incredibly disciplined. However, while Ömer is the epitome of self-control, Kuzgun is both impulsive and emotional. Ömer laughs while Kuzgun scowls. Ömer is understated, erudite, sophisticated and sarcastic, while Kuzgun is loud, street-wise, uncouth and very much in your face.
Their strategies to cope with pain are also diametrically opposed. Ömer runs away, while Kuzgun howls like a mortally wounded animal ready to counterattack. Ömer is principled and organized and — once Defne brings magical chaos into his well ordained, hurt-proof world — he tries in vain to contain the disruption, only to realize that true love is well worth losing control. Conversely, Kuzgun is consciously seeking to disrupt, with the conviction that only revenge will heal his childhood wounds. He soon finds out instead that hurting others is against his own nature. And that his carefully planned path of retribution unexpectedly leads him to self-discovery, love, forgiveness and redemption — long forgotten feelings, which he finds himself completely unequipped to handle
As Ömer, Barış Arduç gained the love and admiration of millions of fans around the world. As Kuzgun, he is earning the full respect of his peers. Patiently waiting for the right project to come along, he has demonstrated beyond any lingering doubt that he ranks among the best acting talent that his country has to offer. His remarkable ability to evolve from a charismatic and restrained romantic hero with a wicked sense of humor, into a tenacious survivor of unspeakable horrors with an irrepressible compassionate nature will no doubt attract the attention of international film makers. What is more, amidst his growing fame, Barış continues to exude class. He maintains a low profile on social media and elsewhere, keeping his private life intensely private. He also continues to care for those less fortunate out of the limelight, in what is perhaps his most important role to date: that of a Goodwill Ambassador on behalf of Turkey’s “Life Without Cancer Society”.
Starting this Fall, his fans can look forward to seeing Barış Arduç deliver once more an amazing performance on screen as Kuzgun. And in the future, we hope to see this unpretentious but prodigious talent in many more valuable projects both in Turkey, and abroad.
*All photographs and clips belong to their respective owners. No Copyright infringement is intended.
A native of Italy, Paola Cesarini has a Ph.D. in Political Science and worked as an international civil servant, a university professor, and a leader in higher education for many years. She is fluent in six languages and is currently learning Turkish. She lives in Denver, CO with her husband and two children. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, classical music, swimming, skiing and exploring other cultures.
@ Copyright by North America TEN and Paola Cesarini