BWW Interview: Actress Anthoula Katsimatides Discusses Her Solo Show and How Being Greek Has Influenced Her Perseverance in a Tough Industry
Actress Anthoula Katsimatides discusses her solo show, Warrior Without a Cause, her Greek heritage, and how she went from a business degree to a career in acting.
Anthoula, can you tell me a bit about yourself? I know you have a degree in Business Administration and a Masters in Secondary Education, how did you transition into acting from there?
I was born in Astoria, Queens, the only daughter of 4 kids. My parents were both first generation Greek so I was raised very Greek and I loved it. But it meant pursuing a non-artistic degree and career! So I got a business degree and worked in advertising out of college because that was a creative aspect of business. Then I transitioned to teaching ESL to high school and college students, while getting my masters in teaching in the evening. I left teaching because my family faced something very tragic and it sent me down a rabbit hole. In 1999 my younger brother Michael committed suicide at 25 years old. I speak of this because I became an advocate for suicide prevention and mental illness awareness. Shortly after I found myself working in government. I became a community affairs representative for Governor George Pataki. I represented him at various events and spoke on his behalf. Unfortunately I lost a second brother, John, on September 11, 2001. He worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. The Governor then appointed me as Family Relations Director at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the entity responsible for rebuilding lower Manhattan. It was the hardest job I ever had. I did this for three years and asked to be laid off when the governor lost the next election. I took a year off from everyone and everything and mourned my losses. And then I stumbled upon acting. I had free time so a friend who was directing a play in a community theatre asked me to be in an upcoming production and I agreed and I was hooked. So I began taking classes and learning about what it meant to be an actor. I loved it so much because it gave me the ability to express myself openly without any limitations. I've been acting for 10 years now and it has filled my heart and soul.
You've acted both on stage and on screen, is there one you enjoy more than the other? Does your preparation for a role change based on the medium?
I enjoy any opportunity to act. I even enjoy auditioning. I enjoy the ability to be big on stage as well as the ability to be more intimate for a camera. I prepare the same way for either. But my performance level changes depending on the medium. I still need to be grounded for both, but on the stage you have to remember that you have to reach the back row of the theater, while on camera, your eyes do all the work and you must do less, which can be a hard thing to do when you have a big personality!
Do you think your Greek heritage has influenced your acting and determination to persevere in such a tough industry?
Absolutely!!! My Greek heritage has taught me the importance of hard work and preparation and persistence. My mom and dad struggled as immigrants and made it clear to us that working hard truly pays off. I also believe that my passion and my drive comes from being Greek. Greeks don't give up on their dreams so easily and they can handle a lot of rejection and defeat. History has shown us the power of the Greek people to RISE like phoenixes from ashes. I carry all that with me daily.
Can you tell me about your solo show, WARRIOR WITHOUT A CAUSE?
I wrote this 60 minute autobiographical piece a few years ago as a form of catharsis. It was originally called "What Will People Think". And so many years later it has morphed into "Warrior Without A Cause". It consists of me on stage playing 10 different characters and basically talking about my life's journey. It's full of humor and sadness and reality as I present my most authentic self. I wrote it with the intention to inspire and motivate audiences. Nothing is more fulfilling than the feedback I receive from audience members who can relate to my story in one way, shape or form. I have performed at several solo festivals with wonderful success and even won some awards. I plan to continue performing it and perhaps touring it around the country and hopefully perform it in Greece as well. That would make me feel like I've come full circle.
What draws you to a character?
Usually I love vulnerable characters. And ones that are bad-ass too!
Is there a certain project you've worked on that stands out to you or that is your favorite?
My favorite project was my first one, TAKING WOODSTOCK. I played Esther, the sister of the lead actor, Demetri Martin, and I was directed by none other than Oscar winner Ang Lee. This was an incredible treat. He was so kind and quiet and caring. He made my first real experience truly memorable.
Do you have a dream director or actor you'd love to collaborate with that you haven't yet?
Martin Scorsese. I belong in his films. They are so very real.
I would also love to work alongside any of these actors and so many others: Charlize Theron, Sandra Bullock, Tina Fey, Laura Linney, Marisa Tomei, Tom Hanks.
You've also dabbled working behind the camera as a producer, can you tell me a bit about the documentary, OLYMPIA?
"Olympia" has been a labor of love over the last 6 years. It's a documentary about Olympia Dukakis, Oscar winning actress, who happens to also be my mentor and inspires me in so many ways. This film is a deeply moving narrative, which explores not only Olympia's rich and storied career but her struggle to never allow herself to be defined by the expectations of others. I am honored to be an Executive Producer, and proud to share that title with Sid Ganis, also an inspiration to me. We just had a sold out premiere at the DOC NYC festival where 500 people gave a standing ovation at the end of the film. We are looking to have a theatrical release both here in the US and internationally.
When you're not performing, what do you enjoy doing?
Walking my dog Smokey. Working out at my gym SageFitness. Listening to Greek music and dancing along. Serving on the Board of Directors of The National September 11th Memorial and Museum. I encourage everyone to visit if they haven't already. I promise a profound and hopeful experience.
Can you tell me about your foundation, the JaM Foundation for Life?
The Johnny and Mikey Katsimatides Foundation for Life, Inc. (JaM for Life) was named for and inspired by the tragic loss of my two brothers: Mike Katsimatides who committed suicide in May of 1999 and John Katsimatides who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Foundation seeks to promote music education, cancer research, aid for underprivileged youth, suicide prevention and the rights of crime victims by donating funds, raised through a variety of community events, to charities that embody the spirit, character and lives of John and Mike. The Foundation believes its donations will enable these charitable organizations to promote the well-being of the community while perpetuating John and Mike's legacy and honoring the lives of two special individuals.
Do you have any advice for people pursing a career in acting later in life?
First of all, it's never too late to pursue your dreams so go for it! Work hard. Never take anything or anyone for granted. Be prepared. Be kind to everyone on a set or backstage. They all work so hard. Be grateful for any size role. There are no small parts. Be generous as an actor with your talent, your knowledge and your gratitude.
Do you have any future projects coming up that you could tease?
I can't say which one but I was cast in a recurring role on one of the Marvel series on Netflix to air in Spring 2019. I play an "old school, tough, mistrustful, hot headed detective". I had so much fun shooting that.
I have a recurring role in Season 1 of FBI on CBS as Sarah, the lead NSA agent. Hopefully I will make another appearance in Season 2!
I will also be performing my solo show again in the spring. To keep up with my news please follow me on Facebook (use my full name), Instagram and Twitter @anthoulakats
Or visit my website www.anthoula.com
IMAGE Courtesy of Anthoula Katsimatides