Yulie Archontaki: A Big Part of Why It’s a Greek Thing is Such a Good Thing
Yulie Archontaki is well aware that her homeland of Greece gave the world the gift of theater as well as a variety of genres with which to present the emotions of these productions. Archontaki may have left Greece to pursue her career in other countries but the part of her heritage which planted the seed of acting has always been a source of authenticity. While some artists are best suited for specific types of roles, Yulie continually finds herself sought after and cast for the duality she is able to bring to the characters she takes on.
Few are able to wield the yin and yang of a persona with the mastery and subtlety which Yulie seems to find so effortlessly. She’s quick to point out that the pain in life makes comedy resonate all the more loudly. The Greek actress gives visibility to this as she vacillates between plays by Noble Prize winning playwrights and productions which lovingly poke fun at those like her who exist somewhere between two cultures.
The most accomplished actors are found to exist between productions which have mass audience appeal and those more esoteric in nature. Proving this template in her work, Yulie both acted and produced “Death and the Fool”, a contemporary adaptation of selected pieces from “Mistero Buffo” also known as the comic mystery plays written by Nobel Prize winning playwright Dario Fo and Franca Rame. Condemned by the Diocese of Rome as the height of blasphemy, these plays bring to life adapted stories from the Bible which establish protagonists against religious rule.
Adding to the challenge, Archontaki performed these works in the Italian street tradition of no props and no costumes and in her native Greek tongue for an English speaking audience. Vetting the universality of her performance, Yulie garnered an Encore producer’s Awardat Hollywood Fringe 2019 for the production.
The actress describes, “One of the most rewarding parts of this involvement was at the same time one of the most challenging parts of it; the fact that I spoke Greek on stage in front of a mostly English speaking audience who not only followed my story but also connected to me and to my words even though they did not understand them. There is something really vulnerable and powerful about standing alone on stage speaking one’s truth in one’s native tongue in front of a group of people who speak a different language.
Their effort to understand me and connect to me and my story is one of the most rewarding things of being an actor. Sharing our stories as storytellers is what gives us life and purpose and satisfaction because sharing our stories is how we change the world, but sharing our story in a different language and still being embraced and felt and understood gives ground to the hope that the world can become a better place because it doesn’t matter what language we speak or what color is our skin/hair. We are all the same. We feel in the same way.”
Still spotlighting the differences we have but in a benevolent, even comical manner, is Yulie’s work in It’s a Greek Thing. The popularity of this series at film festivals has led to its premier on Amazon Prime in November of 2020 and its current development into a feature film. The story depicts the culture mixture/culture clash of Greeks living in America and Greek-Americans.
Under the supervision of Savvas Christou’s production company (famed director and producer known for thirty-five awards from around the world including the Aab International Film Festival, Independent Horror Movie Awards, Alternative Film Festival, Barcelona Planet Film Festival, as well as wins at the European Cinematography Awards and others), the Alexi Papalexopoulos directed series is the story of a woman trying to get married in her 40’s in a foreign country with the assistance of her niece who is Greek – American.
A unique element of this comedy is that it doesn’t juxtapose Greek culture against traditional American culture but rather against that of Greek-Americans. The irony is that those whom we might assume to see things the same are in fact quite different in their perspectives. The series depicts everything from avoiding the “evil eye” to how to correctly relate your age to the idea that a “one way” street is more of a suggestion rather than a rule.
As the Greek born aunt who desires a suitable husband but is uneasy with a more American mindset, Archontaki brings her native born authenticity with a heaping dose of comedy to the story. She confirms that there’s a core of truth in this cultural divide stating, “I remember growing up that my grandparents and older aunts were very religious and held on to all of the customs, that frankly speaking, at this point in time have started to fade away.
Bringing them back in a manner that entertains people is a way for me to honor my culture and show the world where I come from. I’ve met a lot of Greeks in the United States and had conversations about customs. Because they are 2nd-3rd generation Greek-Americans, they don’t understand some of the customs. There’s a lot of truth to what we brought to It’s a Greek Thing and it’s funnier for it.”
Yulie is set to collaborate with director Savvas Christou, starring in the title role of the feature film Nellie. Set in the village of Vamos in Crete, Nellie is a strong woman who struggles against society’s expectations and family traditions in her pursuit of dance. Drastically different in tone than It’s a Greek Thing, Nellie affords Archontaki the opportunity to craft another transfixing leading female role; proving that the film industry increasingly welcomes immense talent like Yulie in a variety of roles.