Multi-talented actress, producer, writer, and radio hostess, Ms. Anthoula Katsimatides, opens up about her Greek heritage, her acting career, and offers advice for hopefuls who wish to find success in the acting field.
Regarding her Greek heritage, Anthoula remarks, “my parents, Antonios and Calliope Katsimatides, were both born on the Greek island of Nisyros. It is quite small with an untamed beauty that truly gets under your skin. In its center is a volcano and, unlike Santorini, you can climb down into its crater and see and feel the heat emitting from its core. Nisyros is a magical place that makes me feel so comfortable – enough to call it my second home. Its people, customs and spirit are embedded inside me. My parents raised me in America to not only be Greek but to be Nisyrian. I am proud of that.”
“I love the Greek dancing, folklore, rituals, customs, and of course, the food! But most of all, I love the Greek passion, and relentless enthusiasm for life!” exclaims Anthoula on her favorite aspects of the Greek culture. Anthoula teaches Greek folk dancing privately, and dances every opportunity she gets.
Her greatest influences in life include her parents and her Uncle Steve Hartofilis.
“My parents emmigrated to this country and like most immigrants, struggled very hard to create a good life for their four children. They succeeded with little or no education. My folks were always helping people and they were loved by all. I try to follow in their footsteps. My mom continues to inspire me with her strength and ability to persevere through life’s very difficult trials. My uncle has been my biggest fan and has encouraged me throughout my life. Of course, above all, my strongest influences now are my brothers and my father who have sadly passed away. In their memory I continue to reach higher because I know they are looking down on me, and I want to make them proud,” says Anthoula.
Anthoula went to college and majored in business with a specialization in advertising and business communications; moreover, she worked as an account executive for a top creative ad agency for three years. She went on to earn her graduate degree in education and ESL (English as a Second Language), and taught high school for three years.
Anthoula worked for former New York Governor George Pataki for approximately three years, assisting in community affairs and public relations. “It was wonderful because it kept me extremely busy, and I championed many Greek issues and received the Governor’s support for the Greek-American community,” she acknowledges.
After September 11, 2001, Anthoula worked on the re-development of Lower Manhattan at the World Trade Center.
“Unfortunately, I lost a second brother that day,” says Anthoula. “John was 31, and I was only 29. I worked for the government agency in charge of the project [The Lower Manhattan Development Corp], and my job was to keep the families of the September 11th victims informed of what was happening, in an effort to help them deal with all the questions, concerns, and problems. It was the hardest job I had ever had. I did that for three years, after promising to only do it for one year. I definitely needed a break. I needed to breathe and to do something that would make me smile. I took a year off and tried to figure out what to do.” Anthoula lost her younger brother, Michael, 26, just over a year before September 11, 2001.
On her inspiration to pursue acting, Anthoula reveals: “One night I went to see a local Greek play at a small theatre in Astoria and mentioned to a friend that I would love to act at some point in a Greek play. She was a director and cast me in a play translated from French to Greek by Moliere ‘A Doctor In Spite of Himself’ or ‘Giatros Me to Zori.’ I was hooked, and discovered the need to learn more about acting, so I started taking classes and discovering the diverse world of acting. A lot of people thought that I was crazy to start acting at 35 but that just fueled my desire. Luckily, I had the same amount of people supporting me and cheering me on. I remember a dear friend at the LMDC who pushed me into taking my first acting class, and I love her for it! Acting makes me very happy. It’s not just a career. It’s an opportunity to get to know yourself better, which is vital. I feel that I am a born performer. Even in my other careers, I found myself using that skill. It’s the ideal field for me, even though the constant rejection can be fierce and hard on the soul; however, my Greek work ethic and perseverance will not let me quit.”
Anthoula’s proudest professional accomplishment was working with the amazing Oscar-winning director Ang Lee for the movie “Taking Woodstock.”
“Ang Lee was unbelievably kind and thoughtful and taught me how to be subtle in front of a camera. I was also very proud to have worked with the legendary Living Theatre in NYC, and artistic director Judith Malina. Above all, I am extremely proud to be a ‘working’ actor pursuing my dream. What people don’t understand is that when an actor is on set or on stage, they are ‘playing’. The real ‘work’ comes before when one is hustling and auditioning and networking in order to bag that job,” she adds.
In addition to acting, Anthoula runs a small non-profit foundation in memory of her dear brothers called “The Johnny and Mikey Katsimatides Foundation for Life,” which is also known as Jam for Life. This foundation seeks to raise money and awareness about a variety of causes near and dear to the heart of Anthoula and her brothers; furthermore, she sits on the board of Directors for the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, the official September 11th entity responsible for building a memorial at the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. “It’s a wonderful tribute to my brother John and the thousands of innocent lives lost that tragic day,” she says.
Finally, Anthoula volunteers as a radio host for Cosmos-FM, a Greek American bilingual non-profit public radio station, which has been on air for over twenty years. “The name of my show is ‘Color your Life’ and I interview people who enrich my listeners’ lives. It is so much fun and a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all different walks of life! It also introduced me into the world of voice-overs, both in English and in Greek. I just recorded two voice overs for the grant given to the Veria Library by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” says Anthoula.
On serving as a host for the 2011, Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund (HTSF) GALA, Anthoula states: “It was fabulous! I am a natural on the red carpet! I love talking to people and getting them excited about where they are and what they’re wearing, etc! The HTSF GALA holds a special place in my heart. Besides the fact that my cousins John and Margo Catsimatidis have hosted the event for twenty years now, it has been a joy to see students benefit from the scholarships they receive, and it’s a fun party!”
Anthoula continues, “I was also extremely fortunate to be a part of the 2011, Gabby Awards at Ellis Island! I was part of the actual program which was thrilling and quite emotional. I delivered a monologue as a ‘Picture Bride,’ a woman who came over to America with a picture in hand of the man she was arranged to marry. It was haunting to be on stage in the actual great hall where so many immigrants had passed in an effort to become Americans, and gain opportunities for their descendants. Without them, their struggles and their sacrifices, we Greek-Americans would not be here today.”
On the Greek-American community, Anthoula concludes “I am very proud to be Greek American. We have a community of people who care about one another. We joke and say that this caring can be overwhelming at times, but it’s a beautiful feeling that other communities envy. This community consists of hard-working, family-oriented individuals with a great pride and love of all things Greek. Thank goodness for people like Greg Pappas of the Greek America Foundation who works tirelessly to promote, preserve and perpetuate our Greek heritage and bring people closer to their own Greek identity.”
Anthoula’s plans for the future are to someday get a regular role in a television series, as well as to continue working hard, and to strive for greatness in every aspect of her life. In the meantime, Anthoula has booked her first Off-Broadway role in the play “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” and can be seen performing on July 1, 2011; furthermore, Anthoula is hard at work writing a one-woman show which she will produce herself. Anthoula has had producing experience outside of this industry, but also serves as co-producer for a show called “Opa! The Musical,” which she hopes to bring to Broadway someday.
For the Greek-American youth who wish to go into the acting profession, Anthoula advises them to “Go for it. They will need to be patient and to hold on tight, because it’s a bumpy ride. However, they should enjoy the journey. Also to be sure they love what they are doing! If they are in it to ‘become famous,’ then they shouldn’t be doing it.”
For more information on Anthoula Katsimatides, please be sure to visit her official website.