'Designated Survivor' Actor Responds to Netflix Pulling an Episode in Turkey

Netflix
Troy Caylak in 'Designated Survivor'

Troy Caylak, who plays a fictional Turkish president in the series, said he "in no way" intended his performance as a political statement and was "disappointed" that the streamer pulled an episode in Turkey.

The actor whose performance as a fictional Turkish president on Netflix's Designated Survivor has led to a real-life political row has weighed in on the controversy.

Netflix last week removed season 2 episode 7 of the political thriller series from its Turkish service after the government in Ankara claimed the show, in which Troy Caylak plays a villainous, fictional Turkish leader called Fatih Turan, violated its censorship laws. Netflix's policy is always to comply with local law.

In the episode, entitled "Famiy Ties," Turan comes under fire from the country’s opposition while he is in the U.S. to attend a NATO Summit to meet with U.S. President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland).

"In light of the recent news publications regarding the Designated Survivor season 2 episode 7 takedown in Turkey, I felt that it was important to shed my perspective on the subject," Caylak wrote in an email sent to The Hollywood Reporter. "I’m a U.S.-born citizen and extremely grateful to be a working actor and screenwriter in Hollywood. Although I am very proud of my rich Turkish culture and heritage, my taking the role of a fictional Turkish president on an episode of a hit TV show was in no way motivated by the desire to make a political statement."

Caylak said the role of Fatih Turan was a "career-lifting" opportunity and "a very proud moment for me, my family and my community, regardless of any political views." He acknowledged criticism that the role was that a of stereotypical Middle Eastern baddy. "For better or worse, the fast-paced ‘business of show’ pivots on the ability to cast ‘types’ based largely on physical characteristics, and mine happen to fall in a certain category of character," Caylak wrote, noting that such roles are "bread and butter to a working actor."

Commenting on Turkey's censorship of the episode, Caylak said he was "naturally disappointed by the decision to have this, or any episode, censored from the series. When I took the role, I was cautioned by Turkish friends that it may have certain repercussions, [but] to me, it is a fictional role in a fictional series that relies on heightened drama to tell its stories and entertain its audience, and I approached this role, as I do every role, to responsibly and honestly portray this character in service to the storyline. Those who know me know that I do not bring my political views to the set, although I readily confess a love of all things Turkish, including the food – doner kebab is my favorite – ice cream, music and the soul of my people."

Real U.S.-Turkey relations are at a pivotal moment. The relationship between Washington and Ankara has been strained by disputes over sanctions against Iran and conflicting policies on Syria. However, in recent days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has offered a diplomatic olive branch by flying much-needed medical gear to the U.S. to help the country fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The Designated Survivor incident is one of a handful of cases in which Netflix has run afoul of local censors around the world. In January 2019, the streaming giant pulled an episode of the political satire news show Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj in Saudi Arabia, after the Saudi government objected to a segment in which Minhaj mocked Saudi attempts to explain the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

With a population of 82 million and a vibrant, fast-growing local television market, Turkey is a key international territory for Netflix. The company has backed several original Turkish-language productions, including the supernatural dramas The Gift and The Protector.

Designated Survivor aired for two seasons on ABC in the U.S. and CTV in Canada, with Netflix taking most of the rest of the world. After ABC canceled the show, Netflix stepped in to bankroll a 10-episode final season three.

Troy Caylak has appeared in numerous shows and had a recurring role in season two of HBO's dark comedy Barry, starring Bill Hader.