“In all friendship”: Tan Caglar plays the first doctor in a wheelchair

“In all friendship”
Tan Caglar plays the first doctor in a wheelchair

Tan Caglar is the newcomer to the popular series “In All Friendship”.

© MDR / Rudolf Wernicke

Tan Caglar takes on the role of visceral surgeon Dr. Ilay Demir. The German-Turk has been dependent on a wheelchair since his mid-twenties.

Tan Caglar (41) was born with a spinal cord disease, but that doesn’t prevent the German-Turkish man from rushing from one career highlight to the next. He is a wheelchair basketball professional, motivational speaker, Berlin Fashion Week model, book author, award-winning comedian and now also an actor. As of August 10, the 41-year-old will be in the role of visceral surgeon Dr. Ilay Demir can be seen in the successful series “In aller Freunde” (always on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Das Erste).

He is the first actor in a wheelchair to impersonate a doctor on German television. “I am very happy and proud that I am allowed to play this role – also as a kind of pioneer,” said Caglar happily in an interview with the news agency spot on news and talks about the challenges his disability brings with it.

Your résumé is packed with numerous stations – do you still sleep at some point? How do you get it all under one roof?

Tan Caglar: (laughs) If the day had a few more hours, I would be very happy. But the nice thing is that everything I do feeds each other. When I play basketball, my head looks forward to working more and writing texts again. It’s the same the other way around. I am very happy that nothing stands in the way.

After you were finally dependent on a wheelchair in your mid-twenties due to a spinal cord disease, you suffered from depression for two years. How did you fight your way out?

Caglar: In addition to the family, which helped me a lot, it was above all the sport that got me out of this difficult phase. I played wheelchair basketball as a professional in the 1st Bundesliga for seven years. For me that was the return to normal life.

How do you cope with your everyday life today: What can you do on your own, where do you need support?

Caglar: So far, I can do everything I’ve done before, you just have to do it differently. Fortunately, I don’t fail at something essential. What actually annoys me a bit is refueling my car. I am always happy when someone is there and does it for me. But that has more to do with laziness, if I’m completely honest.

Do you find it difficult to ask for help?

Caglar: In the past, yes – today it is the epitome of independence for me. Because if I couldn’t ask for help, I would be stuck in many areas. Self-reliance also means accepting help to achieve one’s goals.

Many people are afraid of doing something wrong when they meet someone with a disability. What can you give them on their way?

Caglar: I can only recommend behaving normally. Especially in the language. You don’t make a mistake if you say to a wheelchair user: “Go over there”. Or: “Come on, let’s run there”. That’s organic and what we want to hear. Normality. Or do you think: “Roll over there” better?

Key point inclusion: How and where is there still an urgent need for action in politics and society?

Caglar: A lot can still be done in the infrastructure. Also in art and culture. More ways to attend public events. It is very hard not to be able to take part in something just because there is no accessibility on site, or at least it has not been created.

You are the first actor in a wheelchair to portray a doctor on German television. What kind of a feeling is this?

Caglar: An overdue one! I am very happy and proud to be able to play this role – also as a kind of pioneer. It is nice to know that the production of “In allerfreund” goes this way and thus represents a small revolution in German TV. It’s the year 2021 – it’s about time!

What was going through your head when you were accepted for the role?

Caglar: On the one hand I was very happy – on the other hand, questions rattled straight through my head: Will I be able to pronounce the medical terms correctly? How exactly I should operate from my wheelchair. But above all, of course, how my colleagues welcome me. And I have to say: it wasn’t a problem! It’s like in the rest of life: there is a solution for everything. In addition, the crew and the actors welcomed me with open arms from day one. I couldn’t have done better.

What can fans expect from you in the new In All Friendship episodes?

Caglar: Dr. Demir is a very determined doctor who refuses to be told by any authority. He plays with the uncertainties of his environment, but shows his patients all the more empathy. But above all humor is one of his strengths, with which he brings a certain looseness to the Saxon Clinic.

From the fourth quarter of 2021 you will also be seen in a special role in Berlin’s “Tatort”. Can you tell us something about that?

Caglar: I’m allowed to play alongside the detective, played by Meret Becker and Mark Waschke, their assistant named Malik Aslan on the homicide squad. Malik is also a very laid back and ironic guy – he shared that with Dr. Ilay Demir together. Incidentally, I am very happy that as a police officer I am allowed to play another, rather untypical role for someone in a wheelchair. But that’s exactly my thing and I think it’s great that more and more productions are thinking, true to the motto of my comedy program: “Can’t do it? Not possible!”