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An Interview with Thaao Penghlis

By Jim Ballas

Recently, I got a chance to talk with Thaao Penghlis, who was nominated for an Emmy for his role on “Days of Our Lives.” We spoke for a while and talked about many things, from growing up in Australia to Hollywood to traveling around the world.

Greek Hollywood Reporter: Do you speak Greek?

Thaao Penghlis: “Yes, I went to Greek School because my mother never spoke English. We spent three nights a week at Greek School. There’s something about knowing another language, especially one of your heritage.”

GHR: Was there a strong Greek community where you grew up in Australia?

TP: “We have the largest Greek community outside of Greece. We have over a million Greeks, many in Melbourne and Sydney. [Laughs] I have 45 first cousins in Sydney.”

GHR: Are you involved in the Greek community in Los Angeles?

TP: “I have been. I used to do a lot of Greek balls [and] benefits for the Greek Orthodox Church.

GHR: What is your favorite aspect of Greek culture?

TP: “I love the passion”

GHR: “Least favorite?”

TP: “The arrogance bothers me. I don’t know what it’s based upon. Even the cab drivers are arrogant. Also, show business in Greece is not terrific.”

GHR: How do you like being one of television’s favorite villains?
TP: “I like playing [the villain] because you get away with murder. I’ve come back from the dead at least four times.”

GHR: How does it feel to be nominated for an Emmy?

TP: “I don’t think it was expected. I don’t know. There’s a kind of humility. One of the actors from ‘The Young and the Restless’ said ‘I’m going to stand when they call your name.’ The actors I’m up against have all won two Emmys. I want to celebrate, but you can’t celebrate on your own. But when you have family, you can celebrate together.”

GHR: Are there measures taken to keep the scripts or story arcs hidden?

TP: “Absolutely. We never know what the leak is. There’s always someone leaking something to the press. We only know the script for the following week. It doesn’t help the actor, but it keeps the story strong for the viewers.”

GHR: So what’s next for you?

TP: “I just got back from New York. I want to produce as well. I want to take control of the stories I’ve written. I’ve got a great writing partner who has won some Emmys. You have to always be ahead of the game by lifting off of the page and bringing something they’re not expecting. I always have something up my sleeve they’re not expecting. Sometimes, while shooting, in the middle of an argument, I’ll just grab the girl and kiss her when it’s not written that way.”

GHR: What do you do in your spare time?

TP: “Currently, I’m writing a book on my journeys. It’s called “Sacred Spaces.” It’s about those places I’ve taken time to explore. In two weeks, I’m going back to Egypt and then to Syria. I’ll try to cross the border into Lebanon too.”

GHR: Where is your favorite place to travel?

TP: “I’ve been to Greece many times. There’s nothing more beautiful then going to Mycenae, Corinth or the Acropolis. The first time I stood at the Acropolis, I got emotional. There’s something about having history going back. Being American, our power is immediate, but Greeks, our power is ancient.”

GHR: If you weren’t acting professionally, what do you see yourself doing?

TP: “Probably archeology. I love unraveling a mystery. I like to explore things and I’m able to come back and put that experience and excitement into the roles I have back here [in Hollywood].”

GHR: Lastly, any advice for wannabe actors?

TP: “I think they must come prepared. They have to study. If you want a short career and you’re pretty, maybe that will get you through the door, but not for long. You only have so many chances and there’s nothing like training and exploring other cultures so it’s not just about you, but how you see the world. I think you have to know your history and those that came before you. You have to come prepared so you have a lot on your foundation. It’s all about what a difference you can make to a show. I like ensemble work, but get into the theatre as well. You have to persevere. The way you last in this business is through perseverance. It’s like the Zen Warriors – one pointedness – you have to wake up thinking all you want to be is an actor. If you really want to succeed, you can’t expect it to arrive at your door. You have to fight for it.”

We’d like to thank Thaao Penghlis for talking to the Greek Hollywood Reporter. To find out more information about Thaao, you can check out his website here.

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