Mem Ferda was born in Chelsea, London in 1963 to Turkish Cypriot parents. At the age of six, his mother took him to Cyprus, where his father was the Minister of Agriculture. The family emigrated back to London when he was 12 years old, following an assassination attempt on his father.
Whilst studying, Ferda achieved two university degrees, a BSc Honors degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (M.B.A.). He then began acting in television commercials and was eventually accepted and graduated from the renowned London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art with a Postgraduate Diploma in acting. At a height of 6 ft 2’ and a brawler’s physique he has become notorious for playing the roles of villains.
FTN: Hi Mem, When did you first get bitten by the acting bug and what was it like attending the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts?
MF: From as far back as I can remember, I was always the ‘entertainer’ at family functions. As a child, my mother would have me stand on a chair and recite poetry, followed closely by a song and a dance. In my teens, I began to do modeling, which then led to doing commercials, both in the UK and abroad. Eventually, this manifested into a desire to Act and hence, onto a career path of Acting.
Attending LAMDA was fabulous. To be surrounded by others who shared the same passion and similar desires, gives one a sense of purpose, immense encouragement and support. The techniques taught and the insight into developing ones talent is invaluable.
FTN: You have appeared in a number of high quality television dramas such as Kavanagh Q.C., Trial and Retribution, Spooks and The Whistleblowers to name but a few. Can you tell us what it is like to appear as a guest on these shows and did the regular cast members pass on any advice to you?
MF: Appearing in such shows that you’d never dream of ever being a part of, is so surreal. Each experience has its merits and I would pick up words of wisdom from each encounter.
Ultimately, I found I would learn a lot from directors I’d work with, each having their own unique interpretation and approach to a project.
FTN: Currently playing in the cinemas, you portray Tariq in the film Plastic. Can you tell us a little bit about the film and also about your character Tariq?
MF: Plastic tells the story of a group of University students who become credit card thieves in order to supplement their incomes. They accidentally Rip-off a notorious crime boss, Marcel, which results in them owing a much bigger debt. Desperate and afraid, they decide to target big spenders in Miami, to be able to pay back the huge debt owed to Marcel. Marcel decides to send his reliable right-hand man Tariq (played by myself), after them. Tariq sets off to Miami and captures Frankie (Emma Rigby) to be held as ransom. He starts to have affections for Frankie and is keen to have her to himself.
Tariq works for Marcel and is very loyal. He has a very shaded past, being involved in drug dealing, trafficking, pimping and forcing his previous girlfriends to work as prostitutes. I tried to bring a sense of menace to the character, channeling, Pacino’s Tony Montana, from Scarface seemed to work wonders. . I hope the audience can see this tone in Tariq.
FTN: I understand that Plastic is based upon a true story. Is this one of the reasons you were attracted to both the part and the film in general?
MF: No. It being based on true events wasn’t a deciding factor for me. Essentially, I loved the script and was excited to have an opportunity to work with the director Julian Gilbey and the producer Terry Stone. Going to Miami was a big deciding factor too… (he laughs).
FTN: Did you have to research your role prior to filming and were you in contact at all with any of the real-life participants in the movie?
MF: I spoke about the heist itself with Saqib Ahmed – who served 18 months in jail in 1999 for the Credit card fraud, on which PLASTIC was inspired by. However, my character Tariq was developed as a result of conversations with the director Julian and his visions of how he saw the character and what layers I personally brought to it.
FTN: Aside for the current release of Plastic, you will also be seen on the big screen with the upcoming films Breakdown, Hyena, Dirty Money and My Hero. You are a very busy man! Can you tell us a little bit about each of these films?
MF: Sure. Breakdown, is about a contract killer who is haunted by visions of his violent past. He reaches breaking point, as he is forced to defend his wife and child from his employers, who want him to come back, to serve them. I take on the role of Hakan Abaci, who is a wealthy businessman and head of a Turkish crime syndicate. Craig Fairbrass’s character is hired to come after me and capture and torture me: This results in a gut-wrenching and truly horrific torture scene. It stars, Craig Fairbrass, James Cosmo, and Emmett Scanlan and is directed by Jonnie Malachi. Produced by Luke Fairbrass.
Hyena, just premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014, with fabulous reviews.
This is a police-corruption thriller written and directed by Gerard Johnson. If it’s to be compared to a known classic, its best compared to ‘Bad Lieutenant’ directed by Abel Ferrara.
Hyean, stars, Peter Ferdinando and Stephen Graham, with me playing the role of Akif Dikman,
A Turkish crime boss. Gerard is such a laid back director who allows an actor full reign over their creative choices.
Dirtymoney, is written and directed by the wonderful and very talented, Adam Tysoe.
Based on real events, DirtyMoney follows student Leo Roberts, as he is seduced and corrupted by the criminal rewards offered by London’s high-class underground sex industry.
The film was screened and chosen as best feature at the Raindance Film Festival 2013. It stars Anthony Welsh, Elsa Mollien and myself, and is produced by Debbie Shuter (The Veteran). Montecristo Entertainment is currently securing sales and distribution.
My Hero was a heartfelt project. I was approached by Robert Osman, a warm, sincere and gifted director, making his debut feature, who has been a fan of my work over the years. The script was unique in every way, and very well written by Nate Wiseman, who also stars.
After a meeting with Nate and Robert, and looking at the role of Simon Flowers (a cockney gangster florist), it was very hard to turn down.
It was such fun filming in Margate and as a testament to everyone’s hard work, Arclight Films has come onboard as a sales agent.
FTN: 2014 looks set to be a very busy year for you. You are currently developing a trilogy entitled Rat Catcher, can you tell us more?
MF: I can’t reveal too much, as it’s in development as we speak. I can however tell you that it is going to be a non-nonsense action thriller. The lead character Liam (myself) journeying three films with completely different environments. An all star cast is being negotiated, with attached director, Tom Wadlow. Tom is a newly discovered talent who made his directorial debut with popular indie flick ‘Wasteland’. Writer Gavin Harrison is onboard to pen all three screenplays, along with Chris Newman as Director of Photography and producer Chrissa Maund organizing the entire project. To find out more visit https://www.facebook.com/RatCatcherTheMovie
FTN: Aside form the numerous films that will soon be released, you also have an autobiography which will soon be published. What inspired you to write an autobiography and what can we expect to be included in it?
MF: Sore point, I’m afraid. With the current workload in films and with a new BBC 3 Comedy Series pending entitled Rude Boys, in which I play a father of two teenagers, I’ve found very little time to concentrate on the Autobiography. So it has had to take a back seat for now.
I’ve always wanted to write and share my experiences as an actor. I hope it will be enjoyed by all who get to read it – once completed.
FTN: Apart from your acting gift, it is widely reported that you take pride in helping and assisting others through your various charity participation. Are there any charities in particular that hold a special place in your heart?
MF: I would never regard one charity as being more important in terms of the work they do, over another. I believe they are all worthy causes in one way or another.
However, one that has always been close to my heart is The World Cancer Research Fund. I lost my dear sister Aydin (26 years of age) to cancer, who was a successful lawyer and a kind, beautiful person. I have also had many loved ones and known so many others effected by this terrible disease. The WCRF do amazing work to help educate and fight against cancer.
Secondly, the NSPCC, is another charity I support, I feel strongly against any form of cruelty to children.
FTN: Do you have any advice for any of our followers who may be interested in pursuing acting as a profession?
MF: Yes, the four Ps, which is my code that I abide by throughout my life.
Be Positive, Persistent, Professional, and Personable. If you have an opportunity to train at a reputable drama school – then do so.
The training you’ll receive is well worth the investment of time and effort. It will not teach you how to act (as I feel that is a ‘god’ given talent), but it will teach you how to channel and nurture your abilities as performer.
It is a very hard profession, but which profession is easy… if you want to be successful at it ?
FTN: Finally, would you rather be Captain Solo in The Millenium Falcon or Captain Kirk on The USS Enterprise?
MF: Captain Kirk on the USS Enterprise. To boldly go where no man has gone before!