During his senior year of high school, following a rigorous exam, Can was one of 36 students chosen from amongst the 3,000 most successful students in Turkey and traveled to Ohio, USA as a foreign exchange student.8 There, his talent in soccer caught the attention of the school coach who invited Can to live with him and his family while he was in the foreign exchange program. Can returned to Turkey for the second semester of the school year and by working on an accelerated schedule, he was able to graduate on time with his class. 

Can has a knack for languages, saying “I could catch it very quickly and liked it very much. I was always all ears in [language lessons]”9 and has been fluent in Italian, English and German for many years. Showcasing this gift, at his high school graduation he gave a 10 minute speech completely off the cuff and in Italian. During the 2020 Covid quarantine, he added to his list of language accomplishments when he studied and mastered Spanish.

A gifted athlete who was always active in soccer and basketball, as Can came of age, he needed to consider if he would pursue either sport professionally. Deciding that the potential for a career ending injury that all athletes face was a chance he did not want to take, Can choose to follow academic pursuits instead.10 Following high school, Can enrolled in the Law Department of Yeditepe University in Istanbul with the hopes of working in International Maritime Law or becoming a Prosecutor. Can’s traces his interest in Law to his father recalling, “My Father guided me, but at the base there has always been a deep sense of Justice.”11He entered the university with a basketball scholarship which allowed him to continue with the sport on an amateur level and prepare for a career outside of sports at the same time. Can has said that the demanding requirements associated with studying and practicing law proved useful once he became an actor. “Studying law came in handy also in acting. You become capable of memorizing a lot….We film almost 20 pages sometimes…generally film it in one take…Your memory has to be strong. So for me, studying law was very helpful to memorize. It improves your analytical thinking. It makes you think differently.”12Can Yaman was born on November 8, 1989 in Suadiye, Istanbul, Turkey. He is the only child of his father Guven Yaman and his mother Güldem. While Can and his parents were born in Turkey, his family has roots in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Switzerland. 

In 2012, he graduated from the Law Department of Yeditepe University, and began working at the internationally known audit firm of Price Waterhouse Cooper, where he met his current law firm partners. By the time he was 24, Can was working in mergers and acquisitions and writing articles for the tax section of Dunya newspaper. As he was finding success in the corporate law sector, he was also realizing that corporate life was not for him. Can told Hello! Magazine in 2018, “I felt like having an open view but sitting in an office and wearing a suite bothered me a lot. When they gave me an annual leave, I left without coming back. It was on TV that my colleagues saw me next.”13 While on summer leave from work, Can traveled to Bodrum to visit his grandmother. There he met his eventual and current acting managers, Cuneyt Sayil and Ilker Bilgi.

In 2012, he graduated from the Law Department of Yeditepe University, and began working at the internationally known audit firm of Price Waterhouse Cooper, where he met his current law firm partners. By the time he was 24, Can was working in mergers and acquisitions and writing articles for the tax section of Dunya newspaper. As he was finding success in the corporate law sector, he was also realizing that corporate life was not for him. Can told Hello! Magazine in 2018, “I felt like having an open view but sitting in an office and wearing a suite bothered me a lot. When they gave me an annual leave, I left without coming back. It was on TV that my colleagues saw me next.”13 While on summer leave from work, Can traveled to Bodrum to visit his grandmother. There he met his eventual and current acting managers, Cuneyt Sayil and Ilker Bilgi.

Cuneyt owns, operates and instructs at an actors’ studio where Can soon began taking accelerated classes. Before long, Can found himself auditioning for his first television role in a new 2014 family drama series entitled “Gonul Isleri”. Can took the acting notes from the first audition and arrived at the call back one month later having transformed himself into character by losing significant weight, cutting his hair, growing a mustache and carrying himself physically as a humble man who lives a modest life, never standing tall or confident. Satisfied that they had found the man to play the difficult to cast character of Bedir, production cast Can in his first role and as Can says, “Without knowing how to swim, I leapt into the ocean”.14 Because in Turkey a person can have only one profession at a given time, he stopped practicing law but continues as an owner/partner in the law practice that he and two friends had established.

Can worked steadily for the next 5 years. Following his supporting role in Gonul Isleri, he was cast as the lead in 2015’s romantic comedy “Inadina Ask” portraying playful, flirty and sensitive Yalin Aras. His fame grew and he began to be better known by the Turkish public by 2016 when he began shooting his next leading role of Tarik Cam in “Hangimiz Sevmedik”. All the while, Can continued honing his craft, treating each series as a learning experience and soaking up the wisdom of veteran cast members. He has said “Working on different sets with different masters is an education in itself. The series is our school…“Hangimiz Sevmedik” lasted for 40 episodes…I had the opportunity to get to know and play with great theater actors… I can say that I have learned a lot even by just listening to their conversations”. 15

In 2017, as Hangimiz Sevmedik was completing its two season run, and having worked on television for 3 years straight, Can received an invitation from the President of the Turkish American Arts Society to go to New York and take part in theater tours. He also was asked to act in a Bollywood movie that would be shooting in Mumbai. Can considered both projects but instead accepted an offer to star as the disciplined, guarded and ruled by logic Ferit Aslan in a new series costarring Ozge Gurel entitled “Dolunay”. This marked a turning point in Can’s career. On the advice of Gurel who has a very popular following in Italy and being fluent in Italian himself, Can began interacting and reaching out to Dolunay’s Italian audience. By “putting Italian videos on [his] social media, “Dolunay” exploded in Italy on social media”.16 He now had an international fan base that in time would spread to include Spanish, Greek and English speaking audiences among many others as well.

Dolunay aired its final episode on December 31, 2017. By February 2018, Can was preparing for his next role. He was cast as photographer and outdoorsman, Can Divit, in the new series “Erkenci Kus”. Always changing his looks to suit his characters, Can Divit presented Can Yaman with an opportunity to transform and use his body in performance as never before: “I shaped my body according to the character…Until today, I’ve never had to use my hands and arms this much. I used to play more with my eyes and glances; and since I’m already a big man, the hand gestures get bigger on screen and that’s a disadvantage for these kinds of roles. I didn’t have to get smaller for Can Divit; on the contrary, I play with my whole body.”17

When Erkenci Kus premiered, Can Divit Became a style icon and Can Yaman Became an international phenomenon. Sharing, in his words, a “legendary and extraordinary” chemistry with costar Demet Ozdemir during the series run of 51 episodes, Can captivated audiences and won several national and international awards including a “Golden Butterfly” in Turkey for Best Actor in a Comedy and the Murex d’Or Award for Best Foreign Actor in Lebanon. GQ Turkey named him the “Rising Star” at their Man of the Year Awards in 2019 and E! News declared him TV’s Top Leading Man for 2019 following a public vote, the first time an actor had won for a non-English language series.

After the finale of Erkenci Kus in August 2019, Can embarked on an international tour promoting not only Erkenci Kus but also Inadina Ask and Dolunay which had found new interest in countries all over the world as audiences who had “met” Can Yaman as “Can Divit” now desired an introduction to his previous characters. Most notably, he was invited to the international Mipcom Expo in Cannes, France where television series are licensed and sold to networks and platforms all over the world. Of the honor of being an invited guest whose picture would be featured on the billboards of Cannes, Can said it was “An exceptional, interesting, beautiful happenstance”.18

2020 found Can completing his compulsory service in the Turkish Military which he described as, “A short, but very intense experience. There, on that occasion, I had the opportunity to look inside and reflect on who I am and what I have been”.19

As part of the three week basic training, it was mandatory for his now trademark Can Divit hair and beard to be trimmed and shaved. Emerging from the military base following his service, Can was now free to develop and transform into his next character, Ozgur Atasoy. He reteamed with Ozge Gurel in the summer series “Bay Yanlis” which premiered on June 26, 2020 to great interest and impressive ratings not only in Turkey but around the world.

WORKS CITED