Nia Vardalos Talks My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

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Actress, author, screenwriter, director and producer Nia Vardalos is back for seconds with the launching of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. In which the seeming endlessly energized Renaissance lady has summoned from her abundant imagination a very different sort of matrimonial comedy, counting a mystery menu of surprise elements.

Vardalos met for this press sitdown to drop hints about all that and more pertaining to the film, opening this week in theaters. Including pushing narrative envelopes, adoptive mom advice, family members dipped in pickle juice, moldy feta fashion statements, kindergarten tears, and suggestions about saving giraffes.

Nia Vardalos: Sorry to keep you waiting. I’m too Canadian for that!

Good to see you…

NV: And sorry, I’ve got to get out of these high heels and put on my slippers. I’ve got a sprain. You know who I am, right?

Not a problem! You look great today.

NV: Thank you. I decided to go with the color of moldy feta!

Now, this is fourteen years later for your second Big Fat Wedding movie. Did you think this day would ever happen?

NV: The sequel finally? Well, the wait for this sequel is entirely my fault! I apologize. As the true Winnipeger that I am!

At the end of the first movie, I had written that Toula and Ian were parents. And in reality, that struggle to become a parent was real for me.

It was very long. And then I did become a mom! Happy ending! And then my daughter’s first day at kindergarten, I was crying so hard.

And so loud, that other moms were backing away from me! And then somebody said, hey c’mon. In thirteen years, they’re gonna 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.

Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

So do you think audiences want feelgood movies like this one, with no cursing and no sex?

NV: Hey, just so you know, that car scene? That car scene was full reality! Yep. We went for it! We just – I took off my ring, and we just went for it!

Yeah, I pushed the envelope a little bit. But you know what I do? I give my scripts to my mom before we film. Everything goes to my mom.

In the first movie she said, um I don’t think you should have premarital sex. So I knew I was on to something good!

And in the second film she said, I’m not sure about this line, ‘Protect the pulaki.’ So I was a little bit nervous about it!

So I ran it by my daughter. And she went oh mom, that’s hilarious! Uh, what does it mean?

So I was like, I think I’m going to put it in, and just push the envelope! A little bit.

Kissing John Corbett

And is it true that you made this movie so that you could kiss John Corbett again, the second time around?

NV: Yes! When the news of the sequel broke, I was actually doing a musical, ‘Company.’ And I went home from rehearsal and opened my computer.

And I saw that the news of the sequel had been announced. And I was like, I’d better say something. And I don’t have a publicist.

You know, I don’t know what to do. So I put out on Twitter, that now I’m experiencing motherhood again, I feel ready to write this next chapter.

And a few jaded folks might claim that I ran out of money. Or, just wanted to kiss John Corbett again. One of these things is true!

So how did the past and present kisses compare?

NV: Everything gets better with time! He knows how to use ’em!

How long did it take to write My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2?

NV: I worked on the script on and off, for four months. Because I wrote a book, as you know, at the same time.

My book, Instant Mom came out at the same time. And on the book tour, I saw myself snaked around the line at the book store.

And a mom my age with a child on one side and aging parents on the other – if we’re lucky! The sandwich generation. And that’s what really informed my writing.

And what were they waiting for when they were snaked around?

NV: My book!

So how did you and the director hook up?

NV: Five years ago, I met Kirk Jones. And I was a huge fan of Kirk’s, of all his movies. And I approached Kirk at a party.

And in a stalker like fashion – not admitting you know, that I was writing a sequel! Actually, it was four years ago.

And I said, hello. I’m Nia Vardalos. And he went, are you? And I said, I’m gonna work with you one day!

And in the creepiest way possible, I was way too close to him! And um, then as soon as we were ready to go forward, I said to the producer.

And I said, I have someone in mind. I would like to work with Kirk Jones. And the sucker, he said yes! And it was a lucky thing.

Kirk came over from England. And why the decision was immediate upon meeting Kirk, is when he came in for the meeting, Kirk talked about his family.

Not about his body of work. Not about why Britons are smarter than Americans! Nothing like that at all. He just talked about his family.

But that’s why we went for it. Because at Playtone, we are unabashedly affectionate and sentimental with each other.

And we just felt like Kirk was the perfect addition to the Big Fat Greek family. Yeah. The Playtone galaxy of stars!

Herding Deaf Cats

How did you keep the magic going for this second movie?

NV: It was like herding deaf cats! Yeah. Because this was us on set: ‘Anyway, and then I ate, and then we were hot.’

And then Kirk would say, excuse me. We’ve got to go. Oh my god, that’s what it was like. Blah, blah blah. That’s what it was like. And then we’d be like, ‘Who’s talking! Oh, I’m so sorry!’

How did motherhood for you influence this new movie?

NV: I think that people go through real tragedies. And we have had the benefit of getting letters all these years from people who have told us about their lives.

And what I went through in my quest to be a mom, does not compare in any way. But in the quiet time that I took to reflect on that, it made me a better person.

And I’m so grateful that I didn’t have a biological child. Because my daughter, meeting my daughter – she was almost three, living in American foster care.

All that happened, led me to my real daughter. So in the same way, I am so grateful that the idea for the sequel and the desire to do the sequel, did not come to me.

Because what I went through, informed my writing. And, let me go deeper with this next one. And we weren’t afraid of that.

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. Even if 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.

Try it this way, he would say. Try it this way, try it that way. And the cast, because they were so comfortable in their characters, they would try it different ways.

So you think audiences want to return back to the familiar?

NV: They want it trust it. Yeah…

With happiness all around in the movie, do you think it’s possible to have it all?

NV: I believe that balance is a quest. And I think that we need the yin and the yang. And the only way you know that you’re off balance, is to lose 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.

How about technology and gadgets lately, intruding into lives?

NV: This is what breaks my heart. I walk into a coffee store, and everyone’s got their heads down, looking at a screen.

And I know I sound old school, but we are the sum total of our relationships. And we’re missing out on so much, with our heads down. Not that I don’t love Twitter. I do! But I limit my time there.

How about being an adoptive mom and sharing advice?

NV: It’s like I realize the power with my book Instant Mom, I realize 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, why not just put it out there.

Because you never know. Maybe somebody will go, hey. I’m gonna adopt. You never know. And we had fourteen hours notice. Yeah. She was almost three.

Crazy!

How old is your daughter now?

NV: She’s eleven.

That’s almost a teenager.

NV: Oh god, I know! That’s so bad!

Did those years go by quickly?

NV: Oh yeah. And that first day of kindergarten – maybe that’s why I was crying. I wasn’t ready! Or I was just crying because I’m a mom!

What’s up next for you?

NV: I’m in a series for EPIX next year. With Nick Nolte and Sela Ward. And I’m developing a play Off-Broadway.

And I’ve adapted a book. But I’m sorry, I can’t tell you the title yet! But I have optioned and adapted a book. Yeah.

And what about ending the movie with your thought, marriage isn’t for everyone?

NV: Yeah. I start it, and I end it that way. At the beginning I say to my daughter Paris, you don’t have to get married and make babies.

And it’s a message to everyone. Just, hey. Freeze your eggs, and get your doctorate! Have a good life!

And then I end it with, you don’t have to get married. That character realizes it’s her choice. And comes full circle.

And I think what happened with the first movie, is that we went around that. And we were labeled sort of the poster children for getting married and making babies.

And I just don’t think that’s the one life for everyone. There are other avenues. Go to Africa. Save giraffes!

What do you think about the controversy around the lack of roles for women?

NV: There’s a value to all ages of women up on the screen. But I just can’t whine about it, that there aren’t roles for women.

But it’s maddening. And just trying to find a job, imagine how hard it is for me. And Lainie Kazan, and Andrea Martin.

So I say, I’m pro-woman. But without being anti-man. And the men are well taken care of in my script. As are the women! And it’s easy to do, isn’t it!

Arts Express: Thursdays 2pm ET: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY 99.5 FM, and streaming live and archived everywhere at wbai.org.

Watch the My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 trailer

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.