Meryem Uzerli Turkish Soap Star

Soap star has had her fill of controversy

CLAIM TO FAME

German/Turkish actress Meryem Uzerli is among the Arab world’s best-known young stars, thanks to hit Turkish soap “Magnificent Century,” in which she played Hurrem Sultan, a seductive former slave who becomes the powerful wife of 16th century Ottoman emperor Suleiman. The lavishly produced show mixes intrigue, sensuality and history, luring viewers from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and even France and Japan. But it has irked some Muslims in the region.

BIG BREAK

Uzerli, 30, who grew up in Germany, has a German mother and a Turkish father. After acting school, Uzerli did some theater work and landed small roles on German TV. “Until one day the phone rang, I was invited for a casting in Turkey, and then almost immediately (in 2010) I started living in Istanbul almost full time,” she says.

CATAPULTED INTO CONTROVERSY

Moving from Germany to Turkey, where fundamentalist Muslim beliefs wrestle with Western pop culture, Uzerli became an unintentional poster girl on the cultural battleground. Last year, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to get “Magnificent Century banned, claiming it was blasphemous because it portrayed Suleiman as a womanizer and a drinker. The show has divided Muslims elsewhere, including Pakistan and Egypt, where it has a huge following. Uzerli left the show in May for personal reasons, and moved back to Berlin. “Century” continues, however, with a new actor taking over Uzerli’s role.

A FUTURE LESS CLOUDED

“I am trying to build on my international success within any industry where actors are respected as artists, and where I can find great scripts that allow me to delve into a story that leaves the here and now behind,” she says.

DIRECTORS SHE’D LOVE TO WORK WITH

Ferzan Ozpetek, Yilmaz Erdogan, Fatih Akin, Quentin Tarantino, Roland Emmerich, Roberto Benigni

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