EastEnders star unrecognisable nearly 40 years after role in BBC soap

Haluk Bilginer
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

An Eastenders star looks totally unrecognisable since his role nearly 40 years ago. Haluk Bilginer played Mehmet Osman in EastEnders in the late 80s but the facial hair he is sporting for his new job makes him look totally different.

The star joined the soap cast early on, portraying Mehmet Osman from 1985 to 1989. His character, the brother of Ali Osman (played by Nejdet Salih), was introduced by soap writers Tony Holland and Julia Smith to represent London's burgeoning Turkish Cypriot community, reports the Mirror.

Sadly, their characters were written out suddenly when the writers exited the show. One of Haluk's most unforgettable moments in Albert Square was his duet with Nejdet at The Queen Vic pub, where they performed the lively Turkish song Oy Oy Emine.

In another scene at the Vic, he was struck by Mary the Punk after he attempted to kiss her, reports OK!. While Nejdet's acting career seemed to plateau after leaving EastEnders, Haluk's didn't.

In 1992, Haluk and his then-wife Zuhal Olcay secured roles in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. After moving back to his native Turkey and starring in a host of films there, Haluk and Zuhal even set up their own theatre.

Despite taking a break from English-language films for some time, Haluk made a comeback in 2009 with the American thriller The International, where he took on the role of high-tech missile guidance system dealer, Ahmet Sunay.

Now, he's stepping into the shoes of Detective Cetin Ikmen in a fresh BBC2 series kicking off on Sunday, 7 July.

He's taken the lead role in The Turkish Detective, alongside Yasemin Allen, who plays Cetin's female counterpart, Detective Ayse Farsakoglu.

Sporting a bushy grey beard, Haluk looks worlds apart from his EastEnders days. The series, whipped up by American film company Miramax, is inspired by English author Barbara Nadel's The Cetin Ikmen Crime Novels. While Nadel's version stretches across 24 novels, the tale has been condensed into eight episodes for viewers.

Ethan Kai, recognised for his portrayal of Kasim in Emmerdale from 2016 to 2017 and his stint in BBC's spy thriller Killing Eve, is also set to join the cast.

Don't miss the latest news from around Scotland and beyond - Sign up to our daily newsletter here.