Chatting with Spiro Malandrakis
Today, I chatted over the phone with Spiro Malandrakis. A Canadian actor, born and raised in Montreal who’s about to do great things in his career.
Following a major supporting role in the U.S. this past month on Discovery’s new series Real Detective, the talented home-grown actor continues his steady rise to stardom with a recurring role on Bravo’s award-winning series 19-2. Over the course of 6 episodes in this year’s upcoming 3rd season, Spiro joins the talented cast of 19-2 (Jared Keeso, Adrian Holmes) in a game-changing role—both for his career as much as for the show—that’s set to shake up the plot in a major way!
In 19-2, Spiro plays Frank Ferney, a troubled man who attempts to clean up his act despite substance abuse and past run-ins with the law, Spiro’s astute acting abilities shine through in this character-driven role. His captivating portrayal of Frank’s intricate and difficult journey of integrating back into society, with past ghosts looming closely behind him, will leave audiences on the edge of their seats until the very end of Season 3.
Spiro Malandrakis on the set of 19-2 with lead actors Jared Keeso and Tattiawna Jones (photo by Yan Turcotte)
Spiro’s role on 19-2 caps off a number of recent appearances in Real Detective, supporting fellow Canadian Devon Sawa (Final Destination), The Fixer alongside Eric Dane (Grey’s Anatomy), Pawn Sacrifice opposite Tobey Maguire (Spiderman) and ABC’s new series Quantico that showcase his skillful abilities as one of Canada’s latest talents to keep an eye on!
We chatted about his acting career, how he got here and where he wants to go!
When did you start acting? Why?
I started acting at 15 years old. I always knew I loved to entertain. I’d make up characters and I had a wild imagination. But I was a Greek kid in Montreal, my dad was a carpenter and my mom was a stay at home mom so I didn’t know anyone in the industry or where to even start. I remember I was crying to my parents one day saying this is something I want to do, need to do and we have to find a channel so that I can express myself. It so happened, that week my parents and I went to a wedding and met a complete stranger who led me to my first acting school. Once a week after school I’d go to class and at the end of the year we’d always have a showcase where they’d pick 10 out of 30 kids to act in front of industry (ie. casting agents, directors, actual agents, etc..) and that’s how my career started.
What is your favorite kind of role to play?
Full character roles, those are the best – when you get to step out of your own shoes and into the shoes of someone else who lives a completely different life. Those roles are usually handed out to top actors because you really depend on a character like that to carry the story, so it’s very challenging for actors that don’t have the biggest resume to achieve those roles. Luckily for me, I’m finally breaking into that – last year I had big a role on a Discovery show called Real Detective, he was a character from Georgia so there was an accent, he was a detective… but with 19-2 that’s a dream role. This is somebody you can describe as the opposite of who I am because I’m a very happy person, I’ve had a wonderful life.
But no matter what, we can all relate to each other.
Do you find it challenging to play a role that is opposite of who you are?
I like it. It’s easier to step into those shoes or let’s say for example when I started off, I played a teen on a show called Undressed and basically I was kinda playing myself. I was playing a high school student and that can be hard sometimes because of that you can lose yourself within yourself. But when you play another character, you wake up and you try to think of “How does he live life? How is his morning? He doesn’t have a mother or a father”. You really think about the person behind the character. For me, that’s easier to step into.
Have you ever gotten lost in a role?
You can get lost in a role in a good way, like in the 19-2 role. When things click, the writing is good and the people around you are supportive and positive, the character takes over. You’re lost in a good way because the character is now picking up on everyone else’s intentions and going to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes, when they say cut, you don’t even know what happened, it’s like “What just went on?”
How excited are you to be in 19-2?
Ah man, it was literally a dream come true. It’s been three years I’ve been trying to get on the show. I was first shooting a mini-series with one of the actresses on the show, Maxim Roy, called Category 8 a couple of years ago. That’s when 19-2 started their auditions, Maxim vouched for me, introduced me to the writers and director, brought me in but it didn’t happen. Year two, I got close. I went in but it didn’t go my way. But I’m so grateful I got in year three because this role is extraordinary. It’s one of those roles that as a kid you’re like “Oh maybe I’ll be able to play something this amazing but also with an extraordinary cast”. Because it’s so much more than a role, it’s the people you are working with and this cast is fantastic!
What’s different about the show?
I know why the show is so popular. It’s like reality TV shot with real actors. It’s so real. For example, like my character has a real apartment, BOOM! They rented out this apartment in Verdun, Montreal for the shoot. Also shots are taken it 2 or 3 takes which is great for keeping actors in the moment. We’re shooting quick, like literally 2 or 3 takes, it’s fast and it’s the truly a dream come true!
What has changed since you started acting in the way you’re booked, casted or filming?
I remember when I was 22 and a big group of actors would leave Canada for the US for pilot season and I would be a part of that. It was maybe a little easier back in the day. Since then, less American productions come to Montreal and it’s more difficult for Canadians to land work in the U.S in general due to stricter labor laws. What’s also happened in Canada, it’s become more challenging because of Netflix and CraveTV. Even though those are wonderful options, it’s limiting to Canadian content because these new streaming services aren’t subject to Canadian content policies in the same way as our broadcasters. More projects are being shot in the States and then Canadians stream it. So Canadian projects are really going down and that’s hurting us.
Because of the limited amount of productions there are fewer roles available, so there’s no room for error. When you go to an audition, you better be on the ball, you better have done your work, you have to fight for it. The craziest part of our industry is that the higher you get in your career, the less you can take little roles. You have to find roles that allow you to be a storyteller because you can’t tell a story in a 3-4 line role.
Maybe with the lower dollar more work will be coming but it’s nothing like when I started out. No matter what, you always have to be on the ball, there will always be challenges and you just have to believe in yourself.
Who are your favorite actors?
Tom Hanks: He is an all-around phenomenal actor. He started off in comedy, in sitcoms and tons of feature films but he’s as equally great in drama. And I feel as an actor you have to be able to tell all kind of stories. People have sad stories in their lives, they have happy stories in their lives. If you just characterise yourself only as a dramatic actor or a comedic actor in my eyes, it’s limiting. It doesn’t express the full potential of who humans are and what they have to say.
Jim Carrey: I think if anything he’s equivalent to Tom Hanks. He’s so phenomenal and dramatic but he never gets any credit like he does with his comedy. He brings another style to drama acting and he’s amazing at it.
I would also say Eddie Murphy. He is the ultimate performer. In the movie Dreamgirls, he was nominated for an Oscar and he is truly one of the most talented and funniest people especially because I love stand-up comedy. He is all-around one of the most inspiring people to me.
What would you do if you couldn’t act?
Ohhh my gosh. I use to say to myself that if I had a family with kids and I needed to support them, I could go back. I can be a waiter, bus boy no problem. But now, NO WAY! Once you’ve lived your dream and you’re so happy, you can’t go back. I have screwed myself. I can’t do it, my kids would be living on the street.
If it came down to it, I would probably work in the back of a factory packing boxes or something.
Do you think social media has put a twist on your job as an actor?
The good part about it is that you can connect with your fan base more easily however this new generation is out of control. Now, actors have this in their contract where that you have to tweet when you’re on set getting your makeup done or when you’re on a lunch break.
For me this is puzzling because I have no idea what to tweet. I was shooting Real Detective with amazing Canadian actor Devon Sawa and I would go see his Twitter at midnight and it would be like. “I’m eating a poutine”. What?! Keep in mind that he lives in L.A. so I can totally understand that he doesn’t have the luxury of poutine but I could never do that! I would be walking down the street and people would stop me and say “Hey Spiro, watch those calories!” And that would be because of my tweets so sometimes it’s just hard to know what to tweet.
Like you have friends that post their life on Facebook and it’s too much. Back in the day you had fan mail but now you can connect instantly to your fans, which is definitely a pro…. but then you have people who go on all-inclusive vacations and just share EVERYTHING.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to get into acting?
I always hear: “I need an agent, I need Twitter followers, I need a Facebook page, I got to get pictures…” That’s all materialistic.
What I would tell them is: Find the little kid inside you and feed it. Find an acting school, find a theatre program, perform, do plays. Just do the work. Perform. Perform. Perform. And all the rest will come. I got noticed by doing a play when a wonderful actor in Montreal Marc Camacho saw me in a play and he decided to call his manager and BOOM, I got picked up.
Go up there, tell stories and do what you were born to do and the rest will follow.
I had the best chat with Spiro and we really connected being first generation kids in Canada breaking the mold, with social media and the new generations’ lack of understanding of it. We’re definitely the generation caught between no internet and the internet and we know what the world was before this which makes most of us humble/ understanding of our circumstances.
Really you need to get back to comedy Spiro because you are so funny. I heard at least three good bits in that half hour, I can send you the taping if you want. Let me know when it happens.
“If you’re an artist deep inside you can cover it for a certain amount of time but you’ll never be happy in life.”
And I totally agree Spiro. And when I do start writing my book, I will definitely get your point of view!
Check out the trailer for season 3 and keep your eye on this rising Canadian star.