First Comics News: How did you make your start as an actress?
Elena Kampouris: I fell in love with the arts growing up largely because of the environment I was raised in! My parents are both artists, however not in the film business but in fine art and fashion illustration. Creativity was fortunately fostered, nurtured and encouraged. I never did any type of acting or theater when I was little nor through my schooling, it was a spontaneous curiosity around the age of 14 where I got my first little bit part in Gossip Girl, and as people say the rest was history!
1st: How would you describe Minnow Bly’s character?
Elena: Minnow is a fighter, a survivor. She’s an old soul who is strong-willed but also vulnerable, at the same time she is dangerous and capable of violence. She is not one thing, she’s flawed and complex. She deals with whatever’s dealt to her and doesn’t let any of her trials define or victimize her. She’s constantly questioning everything. She’s also learning to cope with entering the real world from being brainwashed and brought up in a racist cult. She’s learning to live without hands and coping with the trauma of having her hands chopped off in a barbaric way. She’s finally getting to decide what she believes and who she is, without anyone else telling her what to do.
1st: How was it playing a character with no hands? What went into this?
Elena: A lot went into it! Prosthetics of Minnows stumps were made out of molds of my own arms which I learned to puppeteer. They were carefully painted and fitted by our superb FX team. It’s an immense responsibility for me to portray an amputee and it would be disrespectful to even imagine what that could possibly be like to experience, so in preparing for the role I was fortunate enough to meet Kristie Sita, an incredible dancer my age who lost her hand in a boating accident around Minnows age. We worked together every day for 3 weeks before shooting started. She was kind enough to let me into her personal pain and journey, so I could accurately understand Minnow’s physical challenges and emotional challenges. She was my rock through the experience, helping me learn to be comfortable with the prosthetic rigs and performing all of Minnow’s physical actions. We literally went through every single scene in the script, looking at how we were going to tackle it, and determined what prosthetic rig would work best for whatever action. She meticulously supervised me on set making sure that everything looked natural. It was so important to have her be a part of this is hopefully giving Minnow the most honest voice possible. I hope I could do it justice for Minnows voice, Kristie’s and other amputees. We’ve remained close friends since we’re like sisters.
Rich: You seem to put a lot into the role of Minnow Bly. Do you at all sympathize with her troubles?
Elena: 100%. This is a girl who’s experienced severe trauma, yet she’s strong and has a thread of endurance in her. What I love about our series and its message is that there’s something in here for everyone to connect with. We don’t have to have experienced exactly what Minnow went through, but we have all endured some kind of struggle or grief. We are always searching for answers as human beings, searching for happiness, We can all to relate to feeling imprisoned or trapped or like we don’t belong. Minnow is looking for the answers to life and how to deal with pain and torture because life is hard. However, at the end of the day, it’s within ourselves that we can decide who are and what we believe.
1st: What about this role is most enjoyable to you?
Elena: There were a number of enjoyable things to this role and this series that are so unique and rare to find. Our crew was made up of so many remarkable people. They are the unsung heroes who rarely get praise for putting together such complex projects. We had a slew of exceptional cameramen, a stellar wardrobe department that went above and beyond, a lovely hair and makeup team, a kick-butt stunt coordinator who is basically Lara Croft 5.0 (and my first time being on a set with a female stunt leader) they all had such passion for making this show happen. The cast and I didn’t shave or wear makeup since we are set in juvie and the forest. We were encouraged to embrace going natural which was empowering and unifying (not to mention not shaving made for quicker showers!) Altogether, we made something that’s never been seen before and very meaningful. This is a scripted show about a female protagonist with a physical disability in juvie. We handle topics like religion and racism and what it means to be a survivor. This is female driven, diverse and also happens to be a fairy tale. It’s inspiring the most wonderful conversations on Facebook but unfortunately, it’s basically being overlooked by mainstream press. It will break my heart if this show doesn’t find an audience. But I’m grateful First Comic News wants to talk about it.
1st: If you were not in the part of Minnow which role would you like to do in “Sacred Lies”?
Elena: Dr. Wilson. He’s so troubled and conflicted, he knows right from wrong and tries so hard to do the right thing even though it comes at a great cost. Krystal is also a very fascinating character to me, which I would’ve liked to have seen explored deeper. And with that said, all the juvie girl roles are compelling, their backstories were limited in how much they were explored due to time restrictions of the show. What I find beautiful though is that these girls all have many different beliefs and come from different walks of life but they are still in the same spot, with the same struggles and the same wishes.
Rich: What was your favorite moment on the set of “Sacred Lies”?
Elena: Definitely shooting the ending to episode 7, the *bleep* scene. We are all screaming curse words at the top of our lungs and it’s bleeped out as a way of commenting on the censorship and muzzling of girl’s voices and their anger. Our incredible writers wanted to creatively embrace the bleeping and what it means. It was so cathartic for me in a personal way and felt wonderfully liberating (even though we all lost our voices afterward, you may notice in some scenes my voice is off a few octaves!)
1st: You played Paris Miller in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” was this a challenging role?
Elena: I’d have to say it was fairly easy since Paris and I both have our own outrageous, lovable and eccentric Greek families. It’s so special to myself and I think so many people because the movies really represented not just the craziness and charm of Greek families but all families! It’s awesome to now to be a Portokalos for life. But as challenging roles go, Minnow was one of the toughest.
1st: How does Broadway compare to a TV role?
Elena: Playing Cecile de Volanges in the Broadway production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses was my first foray into theater, I had never stepped on a stage before and it was a real eye-opening experience having only done film before. It’s night and day. Theater is a magical medium, every performance is special between performer and audience, it’s not filmed and will never be done the same way so it’s a unique experience intimately shared. Nothing can be artificially edited or manipulated and you only get one go at it per show versus a plethora of takes for film. It was the ultimate boot camp for me and taught me how to be disciplined, show up one hundred percent prepared and be a team player.
1st: What type of role do you most like to portray on screen?
Elena: I like to play characters that have depth and complexity. I like challenging myself and discovering more about the human psyche. We are all so similar yet so different at the same time. And one of my favorite cinematic quotes of all time happens to be from the first Greek Wedding film “I’m an orange, you’re an apple. But after all, we’re all fruit!” Classic.
Rich: How much does physical fitness play a part in your life?
Elena: Physical fitness is extremely important in multiple ways to me. When I did theater for the for the first time ever on Broadway’s Liaisons, I realized how much fitness helps with endurance. People don’t realize how much stamina is required mentally and physically to keep up!
Rich: What are your other hobbies/interests outside of acting?
Elena: If not spending time with my pudgy bulldog Petunia I like to read, workout, study Shakespeare, poetry and Haruki Murakami on my down time. I’m also a huge Sinophile, I’m fluent in Mandarin and love traditional Chinese ballet and Asian arts. I am proficient in ASL American Sign Language, through my love of dance and music I find it the best way to learn a new language!
1st: How do your family and friends feel about your acting?
Elena: They are extremely supportive, I would not have been able to do any of this without their support and my family’s sacrifice. I’m fortunate to have people around me that I trust and care about me and I care about them.
1st: How do you feel about all your fans?
Elena: They are the reason that I have a career! Without fans, I have nothing so they are #1 and will always be #1.
If you want to know a little more about what I do, find me on Instagram at @elenakampouris