Aras Bulut Iynemli is one of the finest, widely-liked, multi-award winning and prolific actors within his peer group. A young actor not yet 30, he has an impressive body of work under his belt, starting work in commercials when just a teenager. Most recently in film, he portrays Memo, a wrongly imprisoned, intellectually challenged single father, in the commercially and critically successful Miracle in Cell No. 7, now streaming on Netflix. The movie, showcasing a heartfelt, sensitive and emotional performance by Aras, has reached and deeply touched millions of viewers around the world.
Aras filmed the movie in the summer of 2019, during a break from shooting Cukur, (TV series, 2017-2020), in which he plays the gangland lead, Yamac Kocovali. Already very popular worldwide as Yamac in Cukur, the film Miracle in Cell No. 7 cemented his fame as a versatile, talented and hardworking performer.
As of mid- April, 2020 Aras is the highest ranking Turkish star on IMDb.
When an actor fully embodies the character he’s playing, and the audience sees only the character on screen without a hint of his star power, it showcases the supremacy of his craft most believably. This is the unique trait Aras brings to the screen, going from strength to strength with each successive project since he started his career.
His breakthrough moment came in 2016, when he played the role of Mert Karadag/ Umut Yilmaz in the critically acclaimed Ay Yapim production, Icerde*. Playing alongside Cagatay Ulusoy (Sarp Yilmaz), he plays the role of a traumatized young man who was kidnapped as an infant and raised on the streets until adopted by a mobster. With misled allegiances and vague memories of his real family, Mert/Umut walks the line between truth and lies, right and wrong, and struggles between the heart and mind. Aras lives his role through the inner conflict he portrays with his full body acting, which takes the audience on an unforgettable cinematic ride. After only half a decade in diziland, Aras has truly arrived.
When watching Aras on screen, it is easy to bask in the intensity and the authenticity of what he brings to each theatrical moment. We enter the realm of the difficult and complicated relationship between Aras’ performance and us as viewers. We are tasked with suspending belief in a fictitious world but also asked to believe in the stories at the same time. Aras makes this easy for us. He does this with a mindfulness and trust in himself and others around him. This self-trust and the consequent chemistry with co-stars, which is visible to us and also mentioned by co-stars, elicits incredible emotions from his audiences. We get an actor who’s exciting, different, appealing, impressive and original.
For Aras, the success of these recent productions and his growing fame are the culmination of many years of earlier appearances in Turkish TV. Prior to the start of Icerde, besides a few films, his dizi career includes a turn as Sarp Altan, a young baby-faced baker/businessman in a shorter series Maral: En güzel Hikayem with Hazal Kaya. He also features as Sehzade Bayezid in Magnificent Century, alongside Halit Ergenç and other talented Turkish stars. Before this he acts as Mete Akarsu in Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman ki, a very successful, long running TV series in Turkey.
He has made the most of his early acting roles to develop his now wide-ranging repertoire and gain new opportunities to work with directors like Mehmet Ada Öztekin, who directed Aras in Mahmut & Meryem in 2013 and in Miracle in Cell No. 7 in 2019. More details on his projects, awards and nominations can be found on IMDb here.
Aras: A Standout Actor
An actor becomes the torchbearer for an entire production team, all of whom work in concert to bring us hours of digital magic. Acting is an embodied craft executed in a performance; not limited to cerebral knowledge. A theatrical performance is a real person in an imagined role. This role is made up of a face, eyes, a voice, looks, glares, frowns and stares, a body, hands, feet, legs physical movement and other gestures, doing a range of things in a story. Within this context, in addition to physical attributes, one can begin to judge the practice of acting in how the actor interprets a role in an authentic and embodied way.
Appearance: Aras is atypical in his unique, leonine look (Aslan! in Turkish). He is very handsome but is not conventionally good looking. His is an interesting face, made more alluring in its intensity. His olive complexion and the slightly ginger/fair hair fits well into the Turkish range of celluloid friendly looks, but this is a face that tells a story like no other. Whether naturally or with extreme practice, he has mastered the art of utilizing its every available feature to embody his characters.
Voice: His deep and expressive voice captures something magical about his articulation, which commands attention. His voice has resonance and melody and he uses this vocality with fluctuating accentuation. Like all speakers, he has the capacity to alter his rhythm, speed of delivery, intensity, and variability, including changing his tone and projection, to engage listeners ‘in the shared experience of character-building and performance’ (Stanislavski 1979), doing what many actors do.
In this short clip from Icerde, he demonstrates the effective ways he uses his voice modulation in a particularly comical scene.
Character Creation: What Aras does more than others is character creation, which is beyond character building. And it is in Icerde that we first see the brilliance of his presence, his mania and his almost deranged portrayal of Mert/Umut as the character starts to unravel. Watch this clip as Mert/ Umut tries to process the grief from the sudden loss of the only sibling he remembers and knows. One doesn’t need to understand the language to appreciate the emotion of the moment.
Mischief: Occasionally we also perceive mischievous intent – or his self-confessed childish streak. This is serious acting but there is also a hint or a shadow of a smile as if he is conveying his own respectful, but light-hearted amusement at the art – and artifice – of acting. Turkish speakers readily display a tolerance for other languages. As a Turkish speaker, Aras is a polyglot par excellence, borrowing phrases and words from other languages when he chooses. In this clip you can listen to his voice, his use of a well-placed English word, his intonation and his mischief as he talks to his arch nemesis, to get an idea of what talent on steroids sounds like. [Those of you unable to to view the clip below can do so on YouTube here; scroll to minute marker 2:51]
Mimicry: In addition, his ability to mime, mimic and mock is unsurpassed. In the clip below he takes on, wittingly and wittily, several characters from Cukur. The entirety of the clip captures Aras’ Yamac imitating various characters from the show (Takliter means ‘imitation’). For example, he starts with mocking the character Vartolu; at others it is Medet, Alico, and more. His talent is obvious without translations.
Hands: His hands are firm, and well-proportioned. There is nothing particularly special about his hands other than every now and then he uses his left hand to do things. We have noticed this a lot with Turkish dizis: either there are many left-handed actors, or they are taught to do this, to signal the changes. But hands form gestures, and gestures are an essential part of communicating meaning, feelings and intent. Gestures bring authenticity to a performance and once again the cinematic practices of dizis helps us to focus on how hands form a central component of romance, of greetings, of eating, of gesticulating, of communicating and of handling artifacts, so important in these stories.
In Miracle in Cell No 7 where Aras plays a mentally challenged father, his hands are clasped and hang limply, signaling the simplicity of this father’s movements and capabilities. These hands could not be more different than those that grasp and carry weapons when he is Yamaç, handling the artifacts of his Mafia role, playing with his guns or stringing the heirloom tesbih, or dancing in a stylized, witch-themed fighting scene with a broomstick. His use of space in this exemplary scene, and his body movements, reflect control of balance and style and a penchant for onscreen cheekiness. Once again, no dialogue is necessary to understand the theatrical depth of the scene.
Gait: He has a casual, well-proportioned physique, and when he moves he does so with a kind of projected nonchalance. This casual, relaxed movement, together with his long legs and arms, combine to make a very distinctive walk. Noted for his swagger as a corrupt cop in Icerde, his dancing and singing as the rock-and-roll star and taunting gangster in Cukur, and his almost pathetic shuffling as the intellectually challenged father in Miracle in Cell No 7, Aras’ physical versatility is wide-ranging and visually memorable.
Emotion: Turkish filmmaking puts significant emphasis on the use of non-verbal gestures, a prevalent component of the Turkish language. Attention is given, cinematographically, to eyes, head nods, tongue clicks – all used to convey meaning without stating the obvious. These come in handy as speech turns in dizis are more readily prescribed because of prevailing family and cultural hierarchies of who can speak, when and to whom. This means eyes (and other gestures) have to do work that language cannot do. This feature gives Turkish actors yet another arrow in their quiver, of creating and conveying authentic meaning when acting.
Aras, with his pale green/hazel eyes with flecks of some color and beautiful long eyelashes, makes ample use of this Turkish language feature, often using his eyes to enhance the intensity of emotion as cinematographers zoom in and focus on his face, emotions, expressions and thoughts. This is slow TV at its best.
Each characterization has meant a different embodiment of developing confidence as Sarp in Maral; of power, desperation and hopelessness in Cukur; of street smartness and survival in Icerde; of simplicity in Miracle. In each of these roles, he becomes a new personality. While this is required of all actors, an actor must maintain consistency with co-stars and with the production in its totality. But what if the totality of the production is a Mafia feast of fantasy, like Cukur?
In Cukur, a unique multi-starred neighborhood saga with 93 episodes and counting, the demands on the interpretation and execution of Aras’ role have been immense. The part is not one character for Yamac: the role mutates as family relationships and life circumstances change for him. He is Bébé, Cumali’s little brother; Sena’s sensual lover; Idris’ rebellious but loyal son; Vartolu’s hated half-brother; Selim’s savior; Azer’s arch enemy; Alico’s patron and friend; the leader of the neighborhood; the fallen, broken husband; the taunting tease of rival gang leaders, and more. And all these parts demand new discourses, new interpretations, new discernments, changing embodiments. One might even think that the part of Yamac is written expressly to show off this young actor’s range. To get a flavor of what we mean, watch this English subtitled video of various clips from Cukur’s earlier seasons:
The cinematographic style of Turkish dizis is also well known for its in depth focusing on faces, emotions and thoughts in family and romantic relationships. This slowness affords an opportunity for Aras’ unusual features and expressions to manifest. When scenes involve others, cameras are not static, but shift and rotate constantly between speakers. With this method of switching, it is possible to catch frowns, smiles, smirks, stares, and interpersonal engagement: actors might not always know when the camera or editing has them in full view, thus, they are in role all the time, which increases authenticity.
In Cukur in particular, the intensity of the relationships between the Kocovali brothers, has allowed the brothers and Aras to animate each other’s roles as much as their own. His exchanges with Selim (Öner Erkan), Vartolu (Erkan Kolçak Köstendil) and Cumali (Necip Memili) are master classes in theatrical duo dramas.
Aras has been blessed in the roles he has selected and played. His latest projects have given him significant space to demonstrate his talent – going from comedy, to performing as an intellectually disabled father, to roles showing madness, and finally to acting as the powerful leader of a neighborhood Mafia family. It is likely that Aras’ personality and his values have amply assisted him to progress in this very social industry. He is sought after by producers and directors because, in addition to his abundant talent, Aras is known to be humble and non-competitive. Understated in his demeanor, but obviously brilliant, Aras has been a student of Istanbul Technical University, in Aircraft Engineering. He embodies Turkishness, recognizing and radiating the collective underpinnings of the culture, the language and the collective nature of filmmaking in particular. The global success of Miracle in Cell No 7 has ensured a bright cinematic future for Aras. There are also rumors he will play the Turkish component of the very successful Spanish production of La Casa de Papel, The Money Heist.
Screen drama is about us, the viewers—hence its power. We are the stories we watch. We connect to the screen, to stars, to other parts of our being. To lives we cannot lead, in places we cannot visit, in cultural settings we can only long for. We are living in an imaged and imagined world as never before. And those who take us there, the writers, directors, producers, but most of all the actors, bring us their stories, as they pour their souls into their performances. It is only when we stop to think about the sheer magic of this tele-wonderment that we start to understand how lucky we are to share the talents and efforts of so many dazzling, cinema stars, especially ones like Aras Bulut Iynemli.
When complimented on the media calling him a star, he is generous and insightful in his reply, ‘We are all stars my friend, we are all stardust’. 
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Special thanks to Facebook group Cukur Social Club, for inputs and help with translation
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*Icerde is about to start reruns on ShowTV on Monday, May 4, 2020
Stanislavski, K. (1979). Building a character (Translated Edition by Hapgood, E. R. (Originally published in 1950 by M. Reinhardt Ltd) ed.). London: Methuen
 Aras’ answer to the statement that he is now a star and a celebrity: ‘Herkes star abi! Yıldız tozundaki, galaksilerdeki bütün elementler sende de var’, interview Şu çocuğun yüzü bir gülsün be!, with Hakan Gence in Hürriyet Pazar, Haber Giriş: 13.10.2019 – 08:00, Son Güncelleme: 14.10.2019 – 17:27. https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kelebek/hurriyet-pazar/su-cocugun-yuzu-bir-gulsun-be-41349405