November 17, 2019
A special interview with Kenan Imirzalioglu, the host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
By: Pınar Yıldız Yüksel, for Sabah Magazine
We’ve been shooting for hours and I am slowly getting tired. Kenan goes up the steps, looks at the photographer and says he looks better when he puts his hand in his pocket. I smile and say, “You know yourself very well.” Without disturbing the pose, Kenan responds. “Science means knowledge, science is to know oneself.” Then he comes down to me and says, “I try to know myself”. Before he has finished this sentence, tourists standing by say they want to take pictures. Kenan puts on his show face and responds to successive requests of a dozen selfies without complaint.
I’m talking about famous actor Kenan İmirzalıoğlu . When we met at Çırağan Palace Kempinski for an interview, he made it his first job to learn the names of the whole team. During the shoot, he took care to address everyone by name. My intention was to closely observe this famous man who the Turkish people have loved, embraced and supported in everything he has done for years. Kenan had already conquered the hearts of our photographers İlhami and Hatice, and laughing, began to talk about the differences between the two frames of the camera.
I saw a Kenan who tried to make the moment he was living beautiful not only for himself but also for those around him. It was not difficult to understand his sincerity and reliability. He is meticulous in his work and will work for hours without complaining to get the best result.
After the shoot, we sat on a bench in Çırağan’s garden and delved into a deep conversation. We laughed at the memories of the first years when Kenan had started to work. His devotion and love for his mother and father was worth hearing. He often visits his hometown of Ankara and mentioned that he and his wife Sinem Hanim were back there recently. I think that is what makes him feel like a real family. He does not spend his life in one place but knows about every aspect of Anatolia. He was raised with deep roots into this land.
Imirzalioglu is the host of ATVs Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The competition, which is broadcast two days a week, has very high ratings. The Turkish people affectionately welcomed Imirzalioğlu back into their homes for this new experience.
Pinar: While everyone is waiting to see you on the screen with a new series, you are the host of the contest Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. This must be a different experience for an actor.
Kenan: Being a host is a different profession than acting. Acting has a text prepared in advance. As a host, everything happens at that moment, spontaneously. We start a new story with each competitor and live it without knowing what the end will be. Moreover, it’s a great experience to meet different people from all over the country and share their emotions, to feel sorry for the loser, to rejoice with the winner, to experience this reality to the end in a position that accompanies the contestants’ struggle to win. This is a wealth of emotion that is truly unique to an actor.
Pinar: Who Wants to be a Millionaire is a classic that has been going on for years. After Kenan Işık, it has had many hosts. Did this make you think?
Kenan: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has had very successful hosts in the past, especially our older brother Kenan Işık. Brother Kenan and our friends who followed him sat in that chair with their own style and personalities. I’m doing the same thing so previous names and styles are not a problem for me. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was the only competition program I continued to watch for years, when I had the opportunity. This competition program is a global brand, in a format that has been broadcast in over 100 countries so far. With such a brand and team that has been managing this brand for years, it was not difficult to accept this offer.
Pinar: We are all unique. Have you ever competed with yourself or those around you on the screen?
Kenan: As a character, I’m curious and hungry to learn. I respect knowledge and learning. I try to enrich myself in the arts, especially the cinema. So is it possible not to follow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ? This program is like being in school. You come across a thousand kinds of information from life. Therefore, I cannot know everything or say that I am coming to this level. One day you know the tenth question; one day you give the fourth question. But the best part is watching the people being together, discussing the options together, living the excitement together. Sinem and I love to compete. I think Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’s most beautiful side is that it brings together all the members of the family, and is a family activity like the old days.
Pinar: Sometimes you wait for several minutes to get the answer to a problem. It is necessary to be patient while doing this work, but also to understand human psychology. You maintain this control flawlessly.
Kenan: First of all, thank you very much for your compliment. I think I’m just getting started. But if you think I am successful, please tell me. So far, nearly 100 contestants have sat in front of me. I witnessed all their stories and they all left me with a separate memory. It is a very special feeling to witness the life stories of people, albeit briefly, and to be there for them while they have perhaps one of the most special experiences of their lives. You are witnessing this one-on-one contestant. When someone is eliminated in the first question, you experience that surprise with them. One may need to leave the contest with a thousand pounds and you share their sadness. Someone may win, becomes emotional and see things that they want very much, and you share that feeling with them. And even if you try to hide, your eyes fill with tear. As much as you can empathize with the competitor, your patience and understanding increases.
Pinar: Your ratings show that. Did you receive such training before the competition? Did you work to prepare yourself before you sat in that chair?
Kenan: Thanks again. I did not receive any special training. My attitude is spontaneous. I remind myself that every guest who comes to the competition with courage will live one of the most special moments of their life. Reducing the excitement and stress on them and making sure that they use their knowledge in the best way is my purpose. We’re all very special, unique beings. We’re all very valuable. When we look at it like this, I believe that we have established a more real communication.
Pinar: You give energy to both the contestant and the audience with some kind of gestures. Is there any desire to give a tip to the contestant if you know the answers ?
Kenan: If I could give the right answer! Of course, such a thing is not possible. First of all, I see the questions along with the contestants. Believe me, even in presenting the question, I am concerned about doing something wrong and directing the contestant . It’s a big responsibility. I try to stand as neutral as possible and follow the logic of the contestant. I’d rather ask questions than comment . Because I admit that I really managed to tip a competitor.
Pinar: You have the feeling of a reliable family man. Do you yearn to be a father?Kenan: These are beautiful words. Thank you. Although I enjoy one side, I am surprised at one side. I’m not doing anything special for this. I’m such a person. If I set out to do a job, I’d do my best to do it the best way. Of course, these can be seen as features that can make a person a good family man.
Pinar: Many women in our country say “like Kenan İmirzalıoğlu” when they describe the type of man they like. How does it feel to be the leading actor in this kind of thinking, and for this response from women to have been going on for years?
Kenan: Sure, I like to hear that. But when you build your life on these definitions, it seems to me that you are likely to have problems later in life. Therefore, I chose to build my life on my own values. It is important for me to do my job well, but most importantly, to live my life with the comfort of conscience. Our privacy is very valuable for all of us. When you look like this, one of us is no different from the other, are we?
Pinar: How do you evaluate incoming projects? What are your expectations? Do you have a filtering mechanism? What is it about a project that will cause you to say, “This is the right job for me?”
Kenan: Of course, I have certain criteria when evaluating incoming projects. But most importantly, the script I read needs to touch my heart and make me dream about it without realizing it.
Pinar: There’s a new generation. Their tastes and expectations are different. They are born into an age of technology. They follow the developments in the world and in our country at the same time. The archives of cinema are quite large, and this audience is huge as a consumer. Do you care if the next generation will like your work? How do you feel about the impact of technology in your business?
Kenan: In the short time since I have begun presenting Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I have seen that the new generation is fed from many different sources and is very smart. However, unfortunately, we have social media addicts who have thrown themselves into the vortex of appreciation and popularity. Ever since I started presenting, I began to witness how they look at life and what they expect. Of course, this gives me some clues as to the way professional decisions will be made.
Pinar: You are a graduate of the Department of Mathematics at Yıldız Technical University. You have experience in this area that many in our country are forced into at the science level. There are some who think mathematics is not necessary in normal life. Have you experienced advantages in knowing mathematics in your own life? Contrary to common knowledge, is mathematics actually a science that works in business and social life, even in family and relationships? Are there moments of knowing mathematics plus?
Kenan: Mathematics is a way of thinking. First of all, it teaches you to think analytically. Explain cause and effect in relationships. It shows how hard it is to prove even the simplest information. It is up to you how you will react to transactions that you cannot prove to be correct. Either you accept it without question, or you investigate, examine and recalculate. I think that life itself is not so different from this equation.
Pinar: You and your wife Sinem Kobal live a secluded marriage. You two are Turkey’s most loved couple and the subject of great curiosity. Is being out of sight a factor that ensures the stability and longevity of the relationship?
Kenan: I just mentioned that each of us is unique. Therefore, we can conclude that each relationship has its own characteristics. I think that the most basic condition for mutual success is to be in harmony. Some couples prefer to live their love in public; others want to keep their life private. I personally don’t think it’s about fame. I’m sure you have friends in your business or social environment who show these different attitudes. It’s best to try to understand each other without judging. That’s what I want and how I live. Someone else might adopt a different style.
Pinar: You have said, “Marriage is different; it is different when a person finds his wife. Finding your wife is a very valuable thing.” What features of Mrs. Sinem made you say, “This is my wife”?
Kenan: Finding your wife is really precious. I think someone who you trust completely, that you can be yourself without any doubt, and that you feel unconditionally accepted by is a real partner. This feeling is above all civilized conditions. When it is found, I think that it should be claimed immediately.
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