Çağatay’s Tale

Çağatay Ulusoy’s story reads like the “American Dream” come true… Turkish style! The hyperactive, multi-talented son of hard-working immigrants, he realized at a young age that nature had bestowed unique gifts upon him, and set on to work hard to put them to good use. Over the last decade, Çağatay’s meteoric rise in the firmament of Turkey’s cinematic stars is the stuff of legend. At only 30, he is already one of the most accomplished and internationally recognized actors that his country ever produced and is currently poised to take on an ever-expanding role in the film and TV industry as a producer, screenwriter, and director. For Çağatay, it would appear that only the sky is the limit!

Çağatay Ulusoy was born in Istanbul on 23 September 1990. His family is of Bosnian and Bulgarian Turkish descent. As a young child, he was bright and vivacious and a lover of nature. To make productive use of his abundant energy, he invested considerable time and effort in sports – especially swimming and basketball, at which he excelled. He also started taking music lessons, quickly developing his natural talent for singing, and playing the piano and the guitar. While still in school, he cultivated his interest in drawing and painting, which he enjoys to this day.

Çağatay started to work at age 16 both as a musical entertainer and a photographer. He also played basketball in several teams, and even entertained plans to become a professional coach. After graduating from high school in 2009, Çağatay enrolled at the University of Istanbul to study landscape architecture. At the same time, he started modeling, and appeared as an extra in the TV series “Arka Sokaklar” and the film “Recep İvedik 3.” In 2010, he performed as the sole protagonist in the silent, black-and-white, artsy short film “Paranoya” directed by Özgür Özer, where he interpreted a young man in the throes of a panic attack. The movie offered early signs of indisputable acting talent and suggested great things to come for the young model.

Also in 2010, he unexpectedly won the coveted “Best Model Of Turkey” competition, as one of the youngest contestants ever to do so. On the same night of his modeling triumph, Çağatay was offered the lead role of Emir Sarrafoğlu in the new TV series entitled “Adını Feriha Koydum” alongside renowned actress Hazal Kaya.

“Adını Feriha Koydum” is a contemporary Turkish take on the Cinderella story, where two very special young people experience an epic love story fraught with deceit and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He is rich, somewhat entitled, and very very lonely. She is poor, smart, and stubbornly proud. She comes from a very traditional family, where the patriarchy rules, and violence is not uncommon. He comes from a well-to-do and fully westernized family that is, however, deeply broken. Their relationship defies existing social and cultural barriers. More importantly, it challenges Feriha and Emir to trust each other in a world that has only taught them to be distrustful.

No doubt it took a considerable amount of chutzpah for the young Çağatay to accept the lead role in a high-profile dizi for his first professional gig with little or no previous acting experience. His boldness, however, handsomely paid off. “Adını Feriha Koydum” successfully aired for two consecutive seasons, bringing Çağatay fame not only in his native Turkey, but also across Latin America, Eastern Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East. Ten years later, the series remains one of the most successful Turkish TV exports of all time. Çağatay’s fans love to revisit it again and again, just to admire their idol’s remarkable growth as an actor episode after episode.

In the summer of 2011, Çağatay played the role of fighter pilot Ahmet Onur in “Anadolu Kartalları.” Modeled after “Top Gun,” the movie celebrates the Turkish Air Force through the stories of a group of cadets, who support each other through the arduous training required to become successful fighter pilots. “Anadolu Kartalları” marked Çağatay’s debut on the big screen.

In 2012, Çağatay starred in the “Adını Feriha Koydum” spin-off series entitled “Emir’in Yolu”, which however was canceled only after thirteen episodes due to low ratings. Despite the show’s serious casting and script issues, Çağatay was nevertheless able to use the dizi to showcase a more mature and stunningly masculine look, as well as a broader range in his dramatic performance – often in the total absence of dialogue.

At around the time of “Emir’in Yolu’s” abrupt cancellation, Çağatay had an unfortunate run-in with Turkey’s justice system, which not only marked a turning point in his life but also took 6 long years to be resolved. Since then, however, Çağatay has kept his nose clean and planned his career very wisely. He developed cinematic skills beyond acting and invested a great deal of effort in charitable causes, especially to the benefit of ill children. Moreover, by carefully choosing his roles (with the help of his skilled new manager Engin Aykanat,) he gave life to a series of positive, larger-than-life characters, who became not only youth icons but also powerful role models of hard work, courage, tenacity, resilience, honesty, and responsibility.

In 2013, Çağatay took on the lead role of Yaman Koper in the new Ay Yapım’s TV series “Medcezir.” Loosely based on “The O.C.”, the show successfully aired for two seasons to great audience reception. “Medcezir” is a reverse Cinderella story, in which a poor, down-on-his-luck but incredibly gifted young man is “adopted” by a wealthy family. At first, Yaman is not made to feel welcome in his new posh neighborhood. Slowly but surely, however, everyone comes to appreciate him – especially beautiful Mira, who falls head over heels in love with him. As Yaman Koper, Çağatay largely carried the show on his shoulders in a veritable acting tour de force. “Medcezir” also gave him the opportunity to display both his comedy and remarkable musical talents. His performance earned him numerous accolades, including the coveted “Golden Butterfly” award for best actor, and the respect of his peers in the Turkish film and TV industry.

In 2015, Çağatay starred as Barış Ayaz in the movie “Delibal” under the expert direction of Ali Bilgin. His intense but realistic portrayal of a brilliant architecture student/drummer severely affected by bipolar disorder received unanimous praise by both audiences and mental health professionals. He also climbed the musical charts with his masterful interpretation of the film’s main song “Mutlu Sonsuz”. In preparation for this role, Çağatay had to shed a good deal of weight and learn to play the drums. Characterized by tattoos, long hair, and fashionable accessories, Barış Ayaz’s “artsy” look also became iconic. “Delibal” was Çağatay Ulusoy’s breakout performance, which dramatically improved his credentials as a serious actor, notwithstanding his young age.

On the wave of his success, proposals for commercial advertising poured in. Thus, in 2016 Çağatay filmed his first (and only) commercial for Colin’s clothing brand. The video, which contains several gawk-worthy shots, was lavishly and expertly produced. In addition to Çağatay, it saw the participation of stunning Victoria Angel model Taylor Hill in what resulted in a delightful product.

While Emir, Ahmet, Yaman, and Barış were quite different characters, they all fit the young tragic romantic hero category. To avoid getting pigeon-holed as a one-dimensional performer, Çağatay’s next career move was brilliant, to say the least. In 2016, he decided temporarily to move to Los Angeles, where he worked on improving his English; enrolled in film school; hired a renowned acting coach; successfully directed a short movie entitled “Home” (on the topic homelessness;) and trained hard in marshal arts and weapons.

The latter was in preparation for his unforgettable next role as undercover Istanbul police detective Sarp Yılmaz in Ay Yapım’s critically and publicly acclaimed TV show “Içerde.” Loosely based on Martin Scorsese’s legendary movie “The Departed,” the series provided Çağatay with the opportunity to give life to a well-scripted dramatic action hero alongside an exceptional set of co-stars, which included (among others) the talented Aras Bulut İynemli and Turkish acting legend Çetin Tekindor. “Içerde” remains one of the most successful dizis of all time. For Çağatay, it was a career milestone, which allowed him to showcase his uncanny ability to achieve radical transformation for each role. Indeed, during 2015-16, he morphed from a street-smart kid into a mentally unstable bohèmien, only to change again into a strong, intelligent, brave, and charismatic law and order icon.

Çağatay as Yaman (2013-15), Barış (2015), and Sarp (2016-17)

Following “Içerde,” Çağatay signed on as the protagonist of Netflix’s first Turkish original series “The Protector”, which aired successfully on the global digital platform for four consecutive seasons. An exciting Ottoman-themed fantasy/superhero series, “The Protector” starred an outstanding ensemble cast of prominent actors, including Hazar Ergüçlü, Ayça Ayşin Turan, Burçin Terzioğlu, Engin Öztürk, Taner Ölmez, Funda Eryiğit, and Boran Kuzum. It also included veteran performers such as Okan Yalabık, Mehmet Kurtuluş, Defne Kayalar, and Yurdaer Okur, and several up and coming young actors. In the series, Çağatay interprets the challenging double role of Grand-Bazar-boy-turned-superhero Hakan Demir, and his Ottoman Akıncı ancestor Harun (the First Protector.) They are both caught in a desperate struggle against a group of Immortals, who are bent on the destruction of Istanbul.

According to Netflix, more than 10 million households around the world watched “The Protector” just during its first four weeks of broadcasting. The show thus established Çağatay Ulusoy, not only as a global superstar but also as a trailblazer in his own country. Indeed, “The Protector” constitutes a watershed in the story of the Turkish film and TV industry in more ways than one. It marked the first domestic production for a global digital platform; transformed the traditional dizi narrative format and pace; improved cast and crew’s working conditions; and provided the very first Middle Eastern superhero saga for the benefit of a vast international audience.

With “The Protector” experience behind him, Çağatay Ulusoy found himself in higher demand than ever. He nevertheless remained extremely selective in and secretive of his career plans. In late 2019, he surprisingly announced that he was going to direct his first short movie tentatively entitled “Azadlık Saka” (Birdie.) The film, which is competing in several international film festivals, marks Çağatay’s debut as a director and screenwriter. Indeed, Çağatay authored the script in collaboration with Tolga Aydın. The short film stars Turgay Tanulku as an aged fisherman struggling to survive, and was filmed in the Kırklareli province, in the European part of Turkey on the west coast of the Black Sea.

Çağatay as Hakan (2018-19), Harun (2018-19), and Mehmet (2020)

In 2020, Çağatay appeared briefly as himself in the third episode of Ay Yapım’s “Menajerimi Ara.” Adapted from the French TV series “Dix pour cents,” the show narrates the lives of various people in connection with a famous artist management agency in Istanbul. On the occasion, Çağatay interpreted a heavily-bearded, reclusive movie star, who imparts a precious lesson from experience to a younger actor in the throes of a media scandal. During his appearance, Çağatay pitched his new movie “Mücadele Çikmazi,” (now renamed “Kağittan Hayatlar” – “Paper Lives”) which he was shooting in Istanbul under the expert direction of Can Ulkay. In it, Çağatay interprets the surprising role of Mehmet, a solid waste warehouse manager in an impoverished Istanbul neighborhood, who is suddenly thrust into the main caregiver role of a lost child named Ali. The film will be released directly on the Netflix global digital platform on 12 March 2021.

In 2021, Çağatay Ulusoy took the lead role in the high-budget series “Yeşilçam” prepared by Es Film for BluTV. Directed by acclaimed director Çağan Irmak and written by Levent Cantek and Volkan Sümbül, the show sheds light on a key period in the history of Turkish film by depicting the behind-the-scenes of Yeşilçam cinema. The story is told through the eyes of filmmaker Semih Ateş, played by Çağatay Ulusoy. The series will be a period piece, taking viewers back to the 1960s — i.e. to the golden era of Yeşilçam. It will initially consist of two seasons, of 10 episodes each.

The Museum of Innocence Book Cover

For the next future, Çağatay Ulusoy has a verbal agreement to star as Kemal Basmaci in the screen adaptation of Orhan Pamuk’s famous 2008 novel “Masumiyet Müzesi” (The Museum of Innocence,) which explores in lyrical terms Turkey’s perennial tension between the East and the West, and between tradition and modernity. Çagatay’s character is a privileged member of the 1970s Istanbul upper class, who develops a romantic obsession for a poor distant relative, Füsün. Kemal, however, fails to realize the true extent of his love for her until it is too late. And for the rest of his life, he is condemned to pay for his mistake with a tragic longing, which he attempts to fill by collecting objects that have marked his encounters with Füsün over the years. “The Museum of Innocence” is produced in collaboration with OGM Pictures for Amazon Prime’s global market. Çağatay Ulusoy is also rumored to be involved in the project as a producer along with Eric Barmak, who originally bought the rights to the screen adaptation of Pamuk’s novel.

“The Museum of Innocence” is a complex, multinational, high-budget project that will require extensive preparations. Until these are completed, fans are happy that Çağatay will return on screen with the Blue TV limited series “Yeşilçam.” It is by now abundantly clear that the brilliant actor will only take on professional opportunities that challenge him and allow him to broaden his already considerable repertoire. Needless to say, fans wait with bated breath for his next cinematic achievement.

@ Article Copyright by Paola Cesarini. All sources for this article are included as hyperlinks. All pictures and video clips belong to their original owners, where applicable. No copyright infringement intended.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Alma Softic Begic says:

    Thanx soooo much…Cağatay is better and better and stay always so handsome man. I love him as person…wish that Gad bless him.

    Liked by 1 person

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