Interview with Cengiz Dervis

Cengiz Dervis is a former professional kickboxing and martial arts champion who, whilst competing, trained as an actor in London, Paris, New York and LA. Cengiz learned his craft by initially working in student films, fringe theatre and a number of award winning short films before moving onto feature films and TV. He is currently filming a US TV series called Knightfall which is shooting in Prague until December. 

Q1: Being offered a part in a US TV show must be a dream job for any actor.  Can you tell us about the audition process and what it was like when you were offered the part?

It’s certainly was a welcomed tick on my creative bucket list…

The auditions for key cast was facilitated by a legendary and really lovely casting director who’s been responsible for the Bond movies for the last twenty years along with a number of other outstanding projects. So when my UK agent called to say her office had contacted them to arrange to see me I was pretty excited and a tad nervous!

The audition process ran over a number of weeks and I was sent sides (scenes) to prepare / perform in the audition room. I was recalled a few times before finally being asked to attend a chemistry meeting with the key director for the series. The meeting went extremely well and a few days later my agent called delighted to inform me I’d received a firm offer to join the cast.

Q2: When did you first meet your fellow cast members and what were they like?

I was flown out to Prague for costume fitting, hair & make up test, horse riding and combat assessments and on this trip I met most of the key people in production and some of the cast.

I then returned to Prague a week later for final fittings, a sword fight rehearsal and a production kick off party for all the cast, crew, writers, producers, show runner and key people from the US network. Absolutely everybody I’ve encountered on Knightfall has been a joy to work with and catering do an amazing job with our food!

Q3: We often remind our young actors at Dramacube how important it is to learn their lines thoroughly. What techniques did you use to learn your lines for your current role?

Personally I like to read the script through a few times without attaching myself to the role. The lines come last after I’m clear on the story and who I am in it. I then set to work learning my lines…

I like to write my lines out and then re-write them in my own words (“how would I say this”). I then put these aside and go back to the actual lines and I’m now fully connected. I think it’s also important to not just know your lines but be really aware of everyone’s lines / actions in the scenes your in.

For screen projects I save my full performance and commitment of my actions / lines for when I’m on set so as to allow myself to be affected by those I’m sharing the scene with and their words / actions. This I feel allows my performance to be truthful and in the moment.

Q4: Most of our shows at Dramacube are rehearsed once a week.  How long is the rehearsal period for aTV show and what is the process?

Once a TV show is filming it all moves very quickly so at times you may get a few days to a week with a new script but you can receive dialogue changes on the day. There is also very little if any movement on the dialogue. Generally and unless the director has requested rehearsals, we’ll block the scene and run lines then. Outside of this you’ll find the cast running lines whilst in make up, in and by their trailers, at lunch, in the transport vehicles on route to set, everywhere and anywhere…

Q5: Were you nervous when you first started the show and how did you overcome any nerves?

I’m always a little nervous but I don’t live there. I feel the nerves are just a way of reminding me how important this is to me and I take control of my breathing and focus on doing good work. I find by taking time to fully prepare the nerves disappear by the time I’m on set and all I’m completely focused on is living the life of the character!

Q6: Have there been any moments during the show when something has gone wrong and how did you and the other actors deal with it?

Thankfully none especially given we’re on horses at times and most fights have us wielding swords, daggers, axes etc. Preparation eliminates a lot of the risks and there’s always safe hands around to assist any incidents or accidents that may arise.

Q7: You are a former kickboxing champion. Have you been able to use those skills in this current role? 

I’ve been training in the martial arts since I was five and over this time have gained extensive experience in unarmed and armed combat. These skills assist greatly, not only allowing me to sell the action to camera / audience but also keeps me and fellow actors and stunt team safe given my control.

The years of training has also impacted on my physicality and how people experience me hence the types of roles I mostly get called in for: agent, soldier, detective, hitman, mercenary, terrorist, fighter, chrononaut, knight, highwayman…

Q8: You have also written, directed and produced in the past. What do you enjoy doing most and do you think those skills have helped you as an actor?

Acting is my first love and I’m happiest when I’m working on the craft in class, with my coach, alone or on a production.

However, there is no doubt that by creating my own content it’s helped me on many levels. Firstly to better understand the business I’m operating in, everyone’s roles within it and what’s actually involved to take an idea from thought, to page, to screen. Also made me fully aware of my brand and how to best present myself for potential future projects. When it comes to scripts I now look at the in a completely different way and I take far more risks in my auditions / performances. Lastly, I believe creating good content is a great way to empower yourself and take more control of your career!

You can check out some of my projects at:

Q9: What advice would you give to any of our young aspiring actors?

First and foremost have lots of FUN!

As for acting, always be working on your craft. The world is your stage and you can practice and perform anywhere, anytime. Read scripts, watch films, tv, theatre. You can grow daily if you so choose, for instance:

You can run through scenes at home, alone, with friends, you can walk into any shop, café etc. in character (within reason) and live the role whilst interacting with people you come into contact with and they’d never know your ACTING as that’s a big part of great acting. Don’t act — live it…

Here’s a few things to think about that may help:

Think about how the person your going to play walks, how do they dress, what’s their posture like, do they have an accent?

Then start to apply these things to your time being in the role. Personally I also like to animalise some of my characters adding some of the selected animal behaviours into the mix which I find can be extremely powerful.

Q10: Looking ahead, what is next in the pipe-line or what would be your next dream job?

I’ve recently come back from LA as my US management we’re keen to put a team around me to support my ambitions. Ten days of meetings and I now have a US theatrical agent, a commercial agent and a publicist joining the team. These along with my UK representation should hopefully assist to keep me being considered for projects.

I’d love to do another feature film before going onto another TV series but as long as the projects are high quality and the scripts are great I’m open to all and at some point another stint of theatre would be fun to do.

We’d like to thank Cengiz for his time and wish him the very best of luck with Knightfall and with all future projects.