Nia Vardalos: The RD Interview
Actress Nia Vardalos dishes on her Greek heritage, her geeky roots and her new movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
Q&A WITH NIA VARDALOS
Your latest film is a sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which came out in 2002. What inspired you to make a follow-up more than a decade later?
At the end of that film, my character, Toula, became a mom. In reality, becoming a mother was an extremely difficult process for me. I can only write from emotions I know, so I couldn’t write what came next. Then I discovered adoption. Our daughter was almost three when she came to us. On her first day of kindergarten, another mom said, “Just think: in 13 years they’ll be going off to college.” I was overwhelmed by panic because it had taken me so long to become a mom. I also saw myself in my generation, with an aging parent on one side and a child on the other. I realized that I am Toula and that I had to write her next chapter.
In the movie, your teen daughter rebels against her Greek heritage. Is that an autobiographical detail?
Yes. When I was younger, a male guest would come for dinner, and an aunt would always lean in, saying, “You’d make good babies with this boy.” I’d be like, “Okay, I’m 12!”
Your real-life daughter is now 10. Have your parents started talking up nice Greek boys?
Not in front of me. Who knows what goes on when they put her to bed.
Awkward baby-making comments aside, what is the best parenting advice offered up by your family?
The wisest is, “Conduct your life as if a video camera is on you at all times.” The quirkiest: we were at a family gathering, and my daughter brought me her plate and said, “I’m finished.” I said, “Did you eat until your body was full?” She said yes. And my family was like, “What? No, you push past the point of full!”
Your parents live in Winnipeg, where you were raised. How do they fare when they visit you at your home in Los Angeles?
They don’t miss a beat. I’ve taken them to many Hollywood events, including something I hosted for John Travolta. Afterwards, my mom walked up to him and said, “John, you did a very good job!” And he just looked at her and was like, “Well, thank you very much, Mrs. Vardalos.”
Everyone in Hollywood has a squad these days. Who would be in yours?
Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, Rachel Dratch. We’d be the geek squad.
Being Greek is a major part of your heritage. Is being geeky equally important?
Absolutely! I was the nerd everyone let hang around because I was funny. Those oversized glasses I wear in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I sketched them and asked the props department to find a pair like them. And when we screened the movie in Winnipeg, all the friends I’d grown up with screamed with laughter, “She’s back!” I’m still a nerd, walking into every party convinced I’m not on the guest list. Talking to Barbra Streisand and spilling a canapé down my chest. Tripping on the red carpet. I hope I never stop being a nerd. There’s no funny in cool.