Turkish-Americans Play Big Roles in Hit Web Series 'Downsized'

Image Written and directed by Daryn Strauss, the web series ‘Downsized’ starring two Turkish-American actresses in leading roles in a plot that tells the story of average Americans coping with debt, credit default, bankruptcy, immigration and unemployment

Average Americans are the subjects of the hit dramedy “Downsized,” a timely online series that was recently named “The best of the straight dramas [on the web]” by the Los Angeles Times.

The show takes place in New York City and features two Turkish-American characters, Leyla and her sister Dünya.

Esra Gaffin plays Leyla. She is a new comer to the States and struggles to adapt to her new social surroundings.

Dünya, who had arrived to the States earlier and is much more affluent with the American culture, is played by Ayşan Çelik.

Writer/director Daryn Strauss says she used the Turkish-American minority as a way to relate to the average people in the States.

“I think sometimes we do tend to focus on other minority/mixed culture communities, but there is a big Turkish community in New York,” Strauss said.

“I mean, there is a Turkish Parade here each year!” Daryn Strauss plays 'Beth' in the Internet series, besides writing and directing the show.

Strauss self-financed the first season, but increasing viewership resulted in second season being partially financed through a fundraising campaign. The show’s increased popularity led to its inclusion into ‘best of’ lists by the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Fast Company.

Gaffin and Çelik are American-born Turks, who studied acting and took part in numerous projects prior to their roles in “Downsized.”

They knew each other before they were cast to act in the hit online show, they said during an e-mail interview with Hürriyet Daily News.

“I did know Ayşan! We met in Boston ... it was about 10 years ago,” Gaffin said. “When Daryn told me she would cast her as Dünya, I was so happy to get a chance to work with her.”

Chicago-born Gaffin has a Turkish mother and an American father. She and her cousins used to act out plays during her vacations in Istanbul, she says. Later she went on to study acting and journalism.

Gaffin said she worked in the Boston market early in her career and moved to New York City in 2000, where she continued her career of acting, mostly taking part in theater plays and commercials. She also created and produced her own theater project called ‘12 Fiery Women.’

She recently had a baby girl, Nadia Perihan, and her focus switched to her and family life, she says and adds she wants to do more television and film work in the future.

“And if I got an offer for a role in Turkey I would definitely take it! That would be wonderful!” she said.

Ayşan Çelik, the daughter of a Turkish couple who settled in the States in the late 1960’s, was born in California and has been acting since the age of six.

“I knew from a very small age that I wanted to be an actor. My father tells me that I probably got it from my great grandmother. She once defended herself in court, and won.”

She took part in her first film, “The Brooklyn Heist,” recently, which won numerous awards at festivals.

Çelik said she would like to spend more time and perform in Turkey, though she would need to practice her Turkish a lot, she admitted.

“To have [my relatives] see me perform would be a dream come true.”

Ayşan Çelik

‘A unique look’

Both Gaffin and Çelik said being Turkish-American worked for and against them when being cast at different projects.

“I have a unique look,” Gaffin said, “I’ve gotten some roles because of this but I’m sure there are some I haven’t gotten [for the same reason].”

Çelik agreed, saying, “Not many people look like me, so I am kind of unique ... and I can look like many different ethnicities.”

“That has gotten me a lot of work as an actor.”

Daryn Strauss wishes to reach the non-English speaking Turks by running subtitled episodes of "Downsized," and she says she could use some help with translations. If anyone is interested in helping them out, you can tweet them www.twitter.com/downsizedseries

For more information on "Downsized," visit www.downsizedthewebseries.com. Doruk Sargin \ Istanbul - Hürriyet Daily News
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07