When I got invited to screen My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 in advance of its release, I was instantly keen. After all, how would the long-awaited follow-up to the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time fare? Nia Vardalos, its writer, had waited 14 years to bring the film back to audiences. Why? What story would she tell? Would she bring original members of the cast? Would it verge on the ridiculous?
I’m happy to report that it wasn’t tacky and that it was quite faithful to its origins. Vardalos brought back either all or most of the original cast, as well as her crew. And if you’re wondering why it’s called My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, I won’t tell you that, as you may want to see it, but I will tell you that there is a wedding and it’s probably not who you think it is that ties the knot, or why they tie the knot. There are twists and turns, and I have to say that I not only laughed out loud but I teared up several times. The plot revolves around many themes of my own life – from being a working mom to a mother/daughter relationship to dealing with dysfunctional family members and it was completely relatable on so many levels. My family may not be Greek (we’re Jewish), but I related to its emphasis on food, relationships, music and culture.
So clearly I was looking forward to a conversation with several of the film’s stars, from Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Elena Kampouris, Andrea Martin, Joey Fatone & director Kirk Jones to find out more about the process of getting the film from script to screen. I spent a recent Saturday morning getting to know the cast from Greek and it was pretty enlightening. Here is the trailer from the film and a few bites from the convo:
An Interview with the Cast of My Big Greek Fat Wedding 2
On why it took 14 years to bring the film back.
Nia Vardalos: The wait for the sequel is entirely my fault. I apologize, as true Winnipegger that I am. I had written at the end of the first movie that Toula and Ian were parents. And in reality, the struggle to become a parent was real for me. It was very long and then I did become a mom. Happy ending. And on my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten, I was crying so hard and so loud that other moms were backing away from me. And somebody said, “Hey, come on. In 13 years, they’re going to go off to college. What’s the big deal?” And I went, “What?” And that’s the moment that I realized I might have had the idea for the sequel and I went away and started writing that day.
Elena Kampouris: It was just all laughs on set. It was such a happy atmosphere, which I find rare, so it was very special.
Andrea Martin: For all of us, I think, the movie’s been kept very alive in the last 14 years, because it was so successful. People have a great love for the film. So over the years, people have come up to me and say, “Do a little bit.” “What do you mean you don’t eat no meat?”
It really felt like yesterday. And we knew each other. It wasn’t like a new cast, so it was just great familiarity and great affection for one another.
About maintaining the magic from the original that everybody loved and made it such a success.
John Corbett: I think that’s the x-factor is magic. It’s so hard to define. How do you recreate some sort of magic that happened on a few million-dollar movie that may or may not see the light of day 15 years ago? When we made the first one, the World Trade Towers were still standing. That’s how long ago it was. Now to come back and try to recreate that is not something that was in my hands at all. It was mostly in hers by putting pencil to paper, and then this guy making those moments happen. So I’m the wrong guy to be answering that. But I think, having seen the second movie, that it happened. Somehow, that magic happened twice, because this movie does it for me.
Kirk Jones: It was a very unusual project for me, and instead of sort of saying, “Okay, this is my film. This is how I’m going to do it,” I had a very different role, and it was really just making sure everyone was guided towards a place emotionally and comically that they had been in 15 years ago. And I have to say, in all honestly, playing down my role, it was not difficult. Everyone turned up. The cast, the script, the performances were absolutely wonderful.
Joey Fatone: I think keeping the magic, in a sense, was of course a huge part of Nia. Because obviously being the writer and learning from experiences, of course, her having a child now. Back then when she didn’t have a child and she couldn’t really write from it, because I think she didn’t have experience from it.
On making romantic comedies:
Jones: I think everyone at this table is a huge fan of making movies which make people feel good, make them laugh, make them cry [unintelligible] again. And the dark stuff is out there, and we all enjoy watching that now and again, but there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t invest our time in making movies which makes people feel good and touch on human subjects, which is what Nia does when she comments on families. And that’s what everyone wants to see, as well as all the other stuff.
Vardalos: We weren’t afraid to show what a real marriage can be like and we weren’t afraid to show that this family has aged, and that’s okay. They all look like they’ve been dipped in pickle juice. But families go through things, and Kirk wasn’t afraid to show that and create a very safe environment on set.
Corbett: And this is also a feel-good movie the first time around. She’s (Vardalos) smart enough to not give anyone a real-life dose of cancer in this one to battle. It’s not My Big Fat Greek Divorce. It’s just more of the same, and that’s what people are going to walk into the theaters wanting. They don’t want something different, really, I believe.
On bringing motherhood into the storyline and an unexpected plot twist (which I can’t mention):
Vardalos: With my book, Instant Mom, I realized the power of just putting things out there. Just offering information. I try not to offer advice, but just, “This is what happened to me and here’s some information,” so I thought, well, I’ll just put it out there. Because you never know. Maybe somebody will go, “Hey, I’m going to adopt.” But I also don’t think that people have to get married. And I think what happened with the first movie is we went around and we were labeled sort of the poster children for “get married, make babies” and I just don’t think that that’s the one life for everyone. There are other avenues. Go to Africa.
I believe that that balance is a quest. And I think that we need the yin and the yang and the only way to know that you’re off balance is to lose it a little bit. So I’m actually happy for those dark places in my life, because I find the light–I appreciate the light so much more.
On playing these roles and relating (or not) to their characters:
Kampouris: Absolutely I could relate, because I’m half Greek. My father’s side of the family is Greek. My mom’s side is French American. The [unintelligible] side. So growing up in a Greek family, I call it BTGFD, Born to Greek Family Disorder. You know what it’s like having family members that are very loud, only have one volume, talk with our hands, our feet. If we had extra limbs, we’d be talking with those too.
Fatone: Everybody can relate to the family with that kind of–with their kind of humor, I think. There’s always that one grandfather or older generation that always, “Well, when back in my day, when I was this, this was this, this and this.” For Michael, his character was always, “Give me a Greek word, any Greek word, and I can find out exactly–or any word, I can find to where it goes to Greek.”
Martin: I based it on a great aunt of mine. I’m Armenian and her name was Evelyn Tarpinian, and she, in the Armenian community, was the one person that always was the fixer, as somebody said today. And always carried herself with great confidence, always looked lovely. Prided herself in assimilating into the American culture. And so I really thought about her when I created the character and I hope that still remains. I wish I could be as confident as Aunt Voula in my real life. It’d be great to go through life not thinking about what anybody thought of you, but unfortunately that’s not who I am. But I love that quality in her. Just doesn’t worry about what people think of her, but I think she goes through life with great affection and love for everybody around her. I don’t mean that she’s just all self-consuming but–
Insight on how other teen girls can harness girl power for good.
Kampouris: What I love that Nia did with this movie is, a lot of people have asked, oh, are they going to do a third movie? Are you going to get married? And I don’t think that would be the case, and I know that Nia’s not all about that. Because in the film, she makes a point, if you’re a teen girl and you get to a certain age and you’re expected to get married, you don’t have to. You can do what you feel is right for you, what your path and your heart is telling you is right. So I like that Nia makes that point. And for myself, I aspire to be a weapon of love and mass creation. To inspire positivity and empowerment. Not just with women, but with everybody. I think we should all feel equal and I think that Nia has infused that into the movie a little bit, especially with Paris’ character, and I love that.
The film comes out on Friday, March 25th. More info on the film here. Please see it and let me know what you think!
Disclosure: Screening and Press Conference hosted by Universal Pictures