Read the interview in Greek Version – HERE
We all remember the romantic comedy of Nia Vardalos “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where she lives in the US with her Greek family. Likewise, the story of our next interviewee is kind of similar, since she lives with her entire Greek family in the San Francisco Bay Area (region of California) but she never forgets her Greek roots.
In an exclusive interview to Anna Krith’s Lifestyle, Actress and Film Producer of “Kalliste Zoe Productions”, Mary Rachel Gardner, talks about the life of Greeks in Los Angeles, how she managed to become Production Assistant at the Ellen Show and explains why she loves hand written cards and letters. Also, recalls the time where she studied in London with the financial aid of her “Yiayia” (grandma).
A: What’s your relation with Greece and what’s the biggest differences with Los Angeles?
M: My maternal side of the family is 100% Greek. Mother’s maiden name Aspasia Glafkides. I grew up in the SF Bay Area living with my Yiayia and Papou, surrounded by my entire Greek family – living just miles from everyone – heavily influenced by Greek culture, the orthodox religion and traditions. I went to Greek school as well as participated in our church’s Greek Dancing team. We won 1st place during my first ever participation in FDF. I also played in a Greek basketball league 😉 Greeks know how to ball it up! The biggest difference with Los Angeles is the Greek community is a bit more spread out and rare to find, especially the food. But it’s almost guaranteed that any Mediterranean spot you find in LA, it’s going to be delicious! I also noticed that the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox church near Downtown LA is mostly comprised of non-Greeks. Definitely more open and inclusive, they even recite some of the Eucharist in English so others can understand. I am used to it spoken in Greek pretty much the entire time, especially the lords prayer.
A: Εxcept from an Actress, you were the Production Assistant at the”Ellen Degeneres Show “. Tell me more about it.
M: I used to be a Production Assistant at the Ellen Show, I currently run my own film production company called Kalliste Zoe Productions. It was a paid internship opportunity during my senior year at USC that I was beyond lucky to find through one of my old bosses that I had worked for at WME, one of the top talent agencies in LA. Working on the Ellen Show was seriously the time of my life! I learned so much about live television and got to meet so many wonderful people in the Ellen family that have been working there for almost over a decade. It was inspiring to see how efficiently and effectively the show runs. I was offered a full time position after I graduated from USC, but it would have been an 8-10 hour, 5 days a week kind of job and I truly wouldn’t have the time to pursue my biggest passion, performing and film making.
A:What was one of your most defining moments in life?
M: One of the most defining moments in my life was when I studied abroad in London. Financially we really couldn’t afford the adventure, but I remember my Yiayia generously contributing to my travels and my mother doing whatever she could to make sure I went. I truly discovered myself as a young, independent woman overseas, fully engulfed with beautiful cultures and languages from all over the world! I now forever am a travel bug 😉
A: What’s something you like to do the old-fashioned way?
M: I love to write hand written letters and notes to loved ones and friends. There is something truly special about receiving hand written cards and letters now, as we continue to rapidly transition to a digital era. I also prefer candle light over electricity, so often some evenings I will light candles in every room. It’s soothing, easy on the eyes and naturally relaxes the mind. Lastly, I love listening to records! The best way to listen to music from any decade.
A: How different was your life four years ago?
M: Wow…Honestly, my life four years ago was completely different. I was at the beginning phases of my acting/film making career as I had just graduated from USC. It was an intimidating, daunting time but now very exciting to look back and see how much hard work I put forth, all the different projects I was involved with, and how it’s supporting the success I’m creating today! I took on many projects back then without pay as I needed to build my resume. I also was still learning and growing as a young adult while at the same time being an entrepreneurial artist. The past 4 years I have learned how to better manage my stress and expectations that often followed by disappointment. My film production company, Kalliste Zoe Productions, which I founded in college has come a long way as well! Started with writing and producing short comedic content for viral releases, and now we are successfully producing and selling scripted content. I even have a feature film I am producing right now! The last four years I have grown a lot as an individual, artist and business woman.
A: What’s something that happened or something that someone said that changed how you view the world?
M: My father, Ozro Gardner, who has helped me spiritually grow in many ways, said to me once that you are either born with a gift or not; you either see certain openings to create or don’t. If you are born with that gift to see and create, then you better go out there and do it, share your creative gifts with the world! My father said he knew I was going to be a singer and performer when I was just an infant. The way I cried, I guess, was almost like a soft fluttering “coo” sound, that somehow angelically translated to my dad that I was a singer. He always encouraged me to share my gifts. I grew up surrounded by lots of music, singing and dancing. I am very fortunate for that; however, I was surrounded by many “balloon poppers” in High School, friends who weren’t really my friends that didn’t support my successes or strengths, so often I was discouraged to let my true voice be heard and show all my colors. Not anymore! What my father said to me will always ring clear in my heart and soul. He said there is a certain light that I attract; don’t be afraid of it, just step into the light and you’ll see how you warm hearts everywhere. God put us on earth to create, spread love and cheer wherever we go, especially through music. It’s important you share the gifts God gave you.
A: Who is your favorite Greek Celebrity? Would you participate in a Greek comedy?
Μ: Jennifer Aniston, by far! I see a lot of myself in her talent wise and grew up watching her on Friends and she just so happened to be a character named Rachel – I mean come on 😉 I would LOVE to be in a Greek comedy. Nia Vardalos is another Greek idol of mine, as she took the courage to bring her story to the big screen – a cult classic film My Big Fat Greek Wedding – which literally was my mother’s story. My dad wasn’t Greek orthodox, so he had to do the same baptism moment in the church with a blow up mini pool. I related so much to that film, laughed till my cheeks hurt and was inspired by Nia’s drive to bring a relateable, cultural piece that translated across hearts all over the world!
A: Do you think people can control their own destiny?
M: I think in some ways we definitely can contribute and help create the destiny we desire. With an open heart, mind and soul, I definitely think you can manifest some of your truest dreams to life! The energy you put out to the universe and surround yourself with will also play a significant part in your destiny.