Professionally trained in martial arts, Cengiz Dervis prepared stars, including Matthew Macfadyen and Rosamund Pike, for their movie action scenes. Then he segued into acting, appearing as Roland, the villain in A+E Networks and the History Channel’s series "Knightfall." His other credits include CBS's "S.W.A.T." and Film projects "Retribution" and "Chasing Shadows." He told us more about training at the legendary Cobra Gym, coaching Nick Clegg, and his directorial debut.

Martial arts

Sabina Nasic: How did you get started in martial arts?

Cengiz Dervis: I started training in martial arts at the age of five under my uncle's guidance, Professor Grand Master Shen, using a system he created called Shen Chi Do, which is a mixture of Korean arts – Taekwondo Hapkido and Kuk Sool Won.

The system is very fluid and covers both unarmed and armed combat (swords, staff, etc.). When I was 13, I also started boxing, and over the years, I have done firearms and numerous ancient, Eastern, and modern weapons training.

Tell us about the famous names you’ve worked with as a martial arts professional.

As a student and a fighter, I’ve worked with an extensive list of professionals, but the most influential was my uncle, Professor Grand Master Shen. I competed extensively in karate and martial arts competitions from the age of nine. At around 17, I focused on full-contact kickboxing. I turned pro and trained for many years with the outstanding former world champion Tim Izli and fought out of the legendary Cobra Gym; I was also supported by boxing coach Scott Poulton, Gary Innes, naturopath nutritionist Max Tomlinson.

As a coach and fight trainer, I’ve worked with individuals from many walks of life, including teachers, nurses and bankers, and fashion designers like Daniella Helayel, the founder of Issa, through high-profile politicians. I coached Nick Clegg just before and during his five-year term as the UK’s deputy prime minister. I’ve choreographed action for several film and stage productions behind the camera and prepared actors for their physical roles, including Matthew Macfadyen, Rowan Atkinson, Natalie Imbruglia, Rosamund Pike, Dannii Minogue, and Seal, to name just a few...

Film industry

Why did you choose to work in the film industry?

For as long as I could remember, I wanted to perform – I’m actually a shy person, but when I’m performing, I feel free. I started training to be an actor back in 2006, and I haven’t looked back. I transitioned from being a professional kickboxer and personal trainer to an actor, writer, producer, and recently director.

As a performer, I’ve written, released, and performed original content, including award-winning festival short films and original music, with my songs on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon under the names Cengiz, Cengiz Dervis, and Strode Road. I’ve also published a few books, including a 280-page graphic novel called "The Drake Files" and two children’s books in the "Jengito" series.

Best projects to date

What have been your best projects to date?

I’m very proud of all of my work, and as I look back, I can see the growth into a solid professional. I now feel ready for any challenge as an actor, and I’m very comfortable working at the very highest levels. In TV, my role as the villain Roland in the series "Knightfall" was a huge step forwards for my career and an absolute pleasure to be a part of.

An independent film called "Retribution," where I play a hitman named Mr. Gallo was my chance to create a pretty terrifying character fully, but it allowed me to exercise my craft. The performance has led to a feature script titled "Gallo" being developed.

Upcoming project

Tell us about your upcoming project.

I’m just finishing post-production on my debut feature, "When The Mist Clears," as a director, writer, and producer. The film was shot during the pandemic in Italy, and it's looking and sounding absolutely beautiful. The next step is to have a short festival run before its global release.