Netflix has canceled filming on its latest Turkish original, If Only, amid pressure from local authorities to remove a gay character from the series.
The eight-part relationship drama was announced in March and was set to be made by Turkish production outfit Ay Yapim, with screen star Özge Özpirinçci leading the cast. But Netflix has scrapped the plans after producers were refused a filming license because of the existence of a gay character.
Per a translation in the Financial Times, If Only’s creator Ece Yörenç told Turkish film website Altyazi Fasikul: “Due to a gay character, permission to film the series was not granted and this is very frightening for the future.”
Responding to a request for comment from the FT, a spokesman for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party acknowledged that concerns were raised about If Only. Deadline understands that rather than caving to creative changes, Netflix decided to abandon the project.
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A Netflix spokesman did not comment on the matter directly, but said: “Netflix remains deeply committed to our Turkish members and the creative community in Turkey. We are proud of the incredible talent we work with. We currently have several Turkish originals in production — with more to come — and look forward to sharing these stories with our members all around the world.”
Netflix’s first Turkish original, The Protector, premiered in 2018 and the streamer doubled down on local shows last year, with commissions including The Gift. If Only was due to focus on an unhappily married woman who is transported back in time to the moment her husband proposed. Özpirinçci posted a picture from the set over the weekend.
Following the cancellation, showrunner Yörenç retweeted a quote from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who reportedly told Turkish newspaper Hürriyet in 2018 that he did not have concerns about censorship in the country. “We’re in Saudi Arabia. We’re in Pakistan. If there are no problems there, will we have problems in Turkey? I can’t imagine that,” he reportedly said.
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