In July 2020, Netflix canceled production on Turkish series “If Only” after Turkish authorities refused to grant it a shoot permit on the eve of it going into production.
The bone of contention, the original series’ creator and screenwriter Ece Yörenç told the Financial Times, was the presence in the screenplay of a character who was gay. Rather than capitulate to the sensed demand of Turkish authorities to excise this character, Netflix and Yörenç took the joint decision to cancel the shoot.
On Thursday, nine months after the cancelation, Netflix Spain announced a Spanish adaptation of “If Only,” “Si lo hubiera sabido,” written by Spain’s Irma Correa, who has already helped adapt Yörenç’s “Fatmagul” as Spanish TV series “Alba,” produced by Boomerang for Atresmedia.
Correa will serve as the Spanish adaptation’s showrunner, Yorenç as a consultant.
Once more produced by Boomerang, the Spanish adaptation of Yörenç’s original Turkish screenplay for “If Only” will star Megan Montaner, fast becoming a major star in Spain after playing the lead female roles as a no-nonsense cop in “The Hunt. Monteperdido” for public broadcaster RTVE and a veterinarian combatting the forces of hell in Alex de la Iglesia’s “30 Coins,” a banner HBO España title.
In “If Only,” Montaner takes on the role of Emma, 30, married to Nano for the last 10 years, but unhappy with her relationship and family life and a routine lacking romance and excitement. She realizes that if she could turn back the clock, she’d never have married him and decides to file for divorce.
On the way to witness a rare lunar eclipse, a supernatural event described as a “time error” sends her back 10 years to 2008 where her 30 year old mind is dropped in a 20-year-old body, giving her the chance to reflect on who she was and wants to be, knowing what happens over the next decade.
A doyen of Turkish TV scriptwriting, Yörenç broke through with 2005’s primetime series “Fallen Leaves” and broke out internationally with 2013’s “Forbidden Love,” hailed as the first Turkish series to be widely reversioned outside Turkey. “Forbidden Love,” 2012’s “Fatmagul” and 2011-13’s “Kuzey Güney” are rated many the most reformatted titles in Turkish TV history.
What was striking about the interview was the joint creative excitement of Ece and Irma and a new sense of nationality emerging in a more globalized world.
These are two creators based out of different countries writing from but no longer totally in the countries, contributing to a universal dialog which is developing fast on how women can live their lives better, or at least try to.
“If Only” “shows not only the universality of good stories but an alliance between two women creators,” said Diego Avalos, Netflix VP, original contents, Spain & Portugal, calling “If Only” “special” and “unique.”
He added: “Ece, known internationally for great drama series that have left their mark on millions of people in Turkey as the rest of the world, will work with Irma, a screenwriter, playwright and actress multi-prized for her works.”
On the eve of a Netflix preview of original productions in Spain, Variety talked to Yórenç and Correa about the second chance drama.
Could we circle back to the circumstances leading to Netflix’s cancellation of your Turkish series “If Only.”
Yörenç: Turkey’s Ministry of Culture has the power to cancel a series depending on the image it gives of the country. Although it hadn’t used this power before, it applied it to my series though it didn’t give any explicit reason. But we know that it’s because the series has a gay character.
Was that decision final?
Yörenç: They hoped we’d change the screenplay, adapting to the moral norms they expected. But I, along with Netflix didn’t agree to making any change to to the original screenplay and we finally decided to cancel the series. But I really want now to focus on the project which is very exciting and giving me a sense of a lot energy. I want to forget the past.
Where did the idea come from to make the series in Spain?
Yörenç: Netflix.We received a lot of offers from a lot of countries. Netflix España showed the greatest interest. Besides, Irma had worked on the adaptation of a prior series of mine, “Alba.”
Spain is different to Turkey. Given that, will the screenplay change?
Correa: It’s the same story, a Spanish story told in Spain. We will retain its essence because it’s a universal story: Everybody would like to go back to the past and change some things. Things we don’t like or which we were sorry abut having done or got wrong. Our protagonist has the opportunity to journey to the past and make different decisions. Though it has to be seen if these changes work out well for her.
Will the gay character gain any more prominence? Will he kiss another man? That would be natural.
Yörenç: In the original Turkish version, a man and a women expressed their love in a certain way. I’m not talking about any specific scene. But two men could live that love in the same way.
Correa: We can’t say [whether there’s any kissing between gay characters]. All I can say is that we will have diversity in all its senses, and a strong Turkish flavor…..
Yörenç: Our story will be set over four seasons – Spring, Summer etc. – like the characters. All the characters will live four seasons in their lives.
What state is the screenplay in? Have you completed any episodes?
Correa: We’re still working on them with Ece.
How are you working together?
Yörenç: First of all, Irma read my version. She loved it and decided to do the adaptation. After Irma read the screenplays, we went episode by episode, although Irma understood perfectly the spirit of the screenplay. There were some details – moments of humor or cultural aspects – which maybe weren’t totally comprehensible. We focused on these. We have a similar creative spirit, so we’re very much in synch when working, and we’ve been working quite intensely.
Turkish series have scored huge ratings in Latin America. Is the Spanish adaptation designed to make that impact even larger?
Correa: It’s a Spanish version, with an Spanish crew, our names, culture, humor, and cities. But, as I said, this is a universal story, and it’s the story which makes it universal. It’s going to be storytelling for the world, not for specific audience, a universal story created for an universal audience.
Yörenç: This is cause for celebration. I’ve had other screenplays adapted [into other languages]. But having a Turkish screenplay adapted to be made in Spain is a sign of success. Once the shoot is over. I will publish the adapted screenplays in book in Turkish which I’ll publish.