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We spoke with Demetris Yiorkatzis, an up and coming Cypriot actor and stand-up comedian who recently moved to Los Angeles to try his luck in Hollywood.
He opened up about his reasons for leaving Cyprus, what it’s like getting his start in LA, and how he researched his part and performed in a recent play honoring Kazantzakis.
How long have you been in LA?
I have been in Los Angeles for two and a half years; I originally came to study acting at Stella Adler with a full scholarship. I graduated their two-year program six months ago, and have since been auditioning all the time to start my journey in the Hollywood industry.
Were you acting back in Cyprus?
When I was in Cyprus, I performed at Anemona Theater in Nicosia – it’s one of the best theaters in the country. I was also one of the top five stand-up comedians in the country, performing my routine at different places around Cyprus. However, there is not a huge stand-up or theater scene on the island, and that’s part of the reason I eventually decided to leave.
What was your biggest acting role before coming to LA?
I was a recurring guest star on “Efta Ouranoi”, a popular show on Sigma TV. Initially I was just going to perform on one episode, but the screenwriter and director liked me and wrote me into the rest of the season, and 15 episodes of the next season as well. So that was quite a big break and a pretty busy time for me, since I was also performing on stage and appearing in other shows simultaneously.
Why did you decide to move to LA after already having performed on Cypriot TV?
When I first appeared on TV I was an amateur, and I wanted to really learn how to act and become a better actor. I didn’t want to study in Cyprus, because there was only one acting school and not much competition to creative a challenging, creative environment. I wanted to go to Greece initially, which was after all the birthplace of art and theater, but that was back when the crisis really hit and it changed my plans.
I tried out England at first, since my sister was up there already, but I couldn’t really take the climate and environment there, so then I set my eyes on Los Angeles.
What are you working on now in LA?
A little of everything. I do short films, stand-up shows, plays – whatever comes my way, as I’m just starting out.
Tell us a little about the role you played in this play honoring Kazantzakis.
I actually played two parts, which was a nice challenge. One of the roles was that of the reporter who was the last person to interview Kazantzakis. That was really interesting, because not many people managed to interview Kazantzakis in his lifetime, so my goal as the character was to convey his fascination for the man and admiration for the famous author.
That was hard for me as a person, because it’s not necessarily something I do often in real life. However, the script, which was based on some incredible things Kazantzakis actually said, helped inspire me so much, because he truly said some incredible, genius things.
The second character I played was a soldier in the civil war between the communists and the government. My character was fighting on behalf of the government, and the people I had to fight I considered my neighbors and brothers; that was a difficult thing to perform.
How did it feel to represent such an important part of Greek culture on stage to a US audience?
It was an honor, and every day I felt not only that I was doing this performance for the 500 people that were present in the audience, but that I was doing something to honor the history and roots and culture of Greece. Sometimes, when you hear the news today, it seems like the fire of Greece is dying down, with all the negative news coming out of the country.
That is why I was proud to wake up the audience, in a way, and make them aware of the incredible things Greeks have done and Greece has been through in its long and rich history.
What are your plans for your future in LA?
In the future, I would like to have a space to write my own plays and my own sketches. Ideally, I would like to put together a team to then perform and record these stories. I did something similar in Cyprus, when I wrote a comedy show that eventually made it to a 600-seat theater on the island. I gave the profits to a local charity organization, which felt was the right move to make as the crisis had just hit Cyprus then.
Overall, the feeling of creating something from beginning to end, writing it, acting in it, producing it, etc., made me feel very proud and accomplished. Hopefully, I can do something similar soon in Los Angeles.