Elena Kampouris, Young Star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Talks Embarrassing Parents and Fangirl Moments
Elena Kampouris is such an Athena. She told me herself, when I asked who her favorite Olympian was, but I could totally have guessed. Quoth Wikipedia—the Athena of the internet—she's the goddess of "wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, mathematics, olive cultivation [!!] , strength, war strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill."
Watching Elena in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, as well as talking to her for this interview, it's clear that she has wisdom beyond her 18 years, as well as major skills in the art of acting. Also, I have no doubt that if the chips were down, she could cultivate the crap out of some olives.
In the movie, Elena plays Paris, the long-suffering (seriously, have you ever had your whole family show up at your college fair and kinda-sort-but-actually-definitely threaten the admissions rep from Northwestern? Or try to set you up with a seven-year-old boy?) daughter of Toula (Nia Vardalos, who also wrote the film, as well as the original) and Ian (John "Forever Aidan in Our Hearts" Corbett). As it turns out, Elena is not unfamiliar with the trials and joys of a close-knit Greek family.
SparkLife: So, do you relate to Paris' family situation?
Elena Kampouris: Yes! I'm half-Greek, like Paris. My mom is the Xeno [Greek root alert! Think xenophobic], and my dad is as Greek as it gets. My family is very, very, very close-knit. They're super involved in every aspect of my life, but I wouldn't have it any other way. They have that Greek passion, that fire.
SL: Okay: what's the most embarrassed you've ever been by a member of your family?
EK: How can I pinpoint one time? This is an accumulation of 18 years of embarrassment! But my Greek father, who I love to bits, is very loud and in my business. He loves to lecture my friends. And don't get me started on the Olympics. I'm not getting into that.
[I try, and fail, to get her started on the Olympics.]
EK: But I do it, too! I find the Greek connection with everything. I definitely catch myself dropping Greek knowledge on friends!
SL: Paris was not so into that Greek knowledge, at least at first! She spent a lot of the movie rolling her eyes are her family—AND RIGHTFULLY SO! It's sort of a cliché that teenagers are always slamming their doors and flopping on their beds screaming "MY PARENTS DON'T UNDERSTAND MEEEEEE!" That said, what do you think that adults misunderstand most about teenagers?
EK: They mean well [goddess of wisdom and civilization!]. But what they don’t always understand we need some breathing room to figure these things out on our own, rather than being told who we are. We need to learn from our own mistakes.
[True! When I was in high school, no amount of argument from my mom could convince me not to wear child-size medium polo shirts to school every day. I just had to learn for myself.]
SL: Now, enough about parents. Who do you fangirl out over the most?
EK: Marina and the Diamonds! She's Greek, did you know that? Marina Diamandis. If I were to meet her, she'd probably be afraid of me. Also Billy Eichner. I would DIE if I met him. I love his show. He’s my spirit animal, aside from sloths and bulldogs. Whenever I meet someone I love, I try to stay cool, calm, and collected, but when Nia [Vardalos] told me I got the part in this movie, I started bawling immediately.
[More than fair!]
SL: Best/worst book you've been assigned for school?
EK: I'm really into Shakespeare right now [Us, too!]. I just finished Macbeth, and I'm doing The Merchant of Venice right now. I loved A Midsummer Night's Dream. And The Odyssey, of course!
[Elena is clearly a book-lover, because I really had to press her on the whole "worst book" part of the question.]
EK: Okay! I'm not going to lie, The Pearl was pretty hard to get through. And it was such a thin book! It felt like false advertising.
What did I say? Such an Athena.
Check out Elena in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, opening this Friday, March 25!