International audiences first fell in love with Alexis Georgoulis in the 2007 romantic comedy My Life in Ruins by Nia Vardalos (star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding) where he played a bus driver who eventually became her love interest. Then again in the 2016-2019 TV series The Durrells where he played Spiros Halikiopoulos, the friendly cab driver who helped British family the Durrells settle on the Greek island of Corfu.
An acclaimed actor, director and screenwriter, Georgoulis has established an arts career in Greece and abroad and interestingly since 2019 has ventured into the political arena. He was elected as a Member of the European Parliament with the Syriza – Progressive Alliance political party and is a member of the Committee Culture and the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions. Georgoulis is also the co-founder of the Cultural Creators Friendship Group in the European Parliament.
Were you an inquiring and restless mind or a child who came to terms with any situation?
Since I was a kid, I was very much anxious in the sense that I wanted to discover life even if it happened in a risky way for me. It didn’t matter how many times I fell off my bike. It was important to discover new horizons and learn when I fall, to get up again.
What is acting for you? Is it a soul-searching process or just a bleak role?
It was originally a new seductive world. A game between reality and the convention of the stage play.
Now, I know that I was very lucky and I am grateful because life has led my steps to where I really feel at home. ‘My Art’ is my space, because it is where I can meet people in a different dimension. It’s there where we can meet and bridge our differences. This is the reason why I got involved in politics, in order to highlight the power of civilization that unite us.
You have taken part in several film productions abroad. What do you reminisce about these collaborations and which other actors do you admire and would like to work with again?
What impressed me when I worked on these productions abroad was the clear intention of people to invest in ‘culture’. It is no coincidence that abroad they talk about a ‘cultural industry’ while in Greece, we still have a long way to go. It is as though we do not believe in the power of civilization. This seems to be completely an oxymoron if we consider that culture was born here in Greece. As for my colleagues, I would not like to single out some, because for many different reasons, they were all lovable!
Boston’s public radio station, WGBH named you the ‘George Clooney of Greece’ following your appearance on The Durrells. How much did the series help your career?
Any identification of an actor with one image or another can be a double-edged sword for his future. I am one of those actors who love to transform and why I always try as much as I can to explore new roles, different characters and motivations, in people’s actions.
Would you consider any negative review of your performances from critics as intentional?
Why should it contain deceit? Whether a review is comprehensive and based on arguments, it does exactly what it is destined to do. Well, there are reviews. After all, critics, normally, are experts who have studied their subject and know what it is. Criticism can make us all better. Us, but also the public. If there is some kind of empathy in the text of a review, it is clear.
In every profession, there are bad professionals. Lately, we have heard a lot of unpleasantries surrounding the Greek theatre landscape, but beyond that, I would like you to tell me what one could do to cope with such situations?
Since you asked me about my experience abroad, I would like to point out that all the necessary measures and safeguards are being implemented abroad, with specific working protocols, in order to maintain professional standards and behaviour during filming in all productions.
I believe these protocols must be applied throughout Europe, and that is why I have raised the issue in the European Parliament and after many efforts finally mobilized the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament and are now waiting for an exchange of views on the issue of the participation of Civil Society, in 2022.
What form of acting would you choose?
Every form has its own charm and beauty, so I love them all the same. Right now specifically and after the pandemic hit we have inevitably lost contact with each other, I would really like through the depths of my heart to do theatre. Because that really brings us close to the magic of each moment.
What motivated you to enter politics?
I entered the European Parliament with the dream and the desire to contribute from my own experiences in the arts and culture. Those who voted for me knew who I was and what job I was doing. I have always considered that culture is one of the most basic pillars of society. People joined forces and created societies for the planet’s survival and created civilization. Before getting involved with politics I had the feeling that culture at a political level was being wronged, and its value and offerings were not fully understood. That’s why I made a promise so much to myself as much as to the world, that until my last day in politics, I will strengthen and will highlight the value of culture.
Due to your political position and related duties, you have a very intense and busy schedule. How do you manage quality time for your personal life?
To tell you the truth, I do not know a person who does not have a heavy daily schedule. With love and mutual understanding, space and time can be found for everything. Besides, as they say, if you really want something you’ll find the way. If not, you will find excuses.
Many believe that an artist can’t be a politician. What do you think?
So, the time has come for the political discourse to become more humane. This is a difficult task. Because it’s a completely new suggestion and may be frightening since it is not something familiar. The world is used to picturing a politician as someone in a suit. I don’t mind if I get attacked for my unconventional choices. I know that’s what we need as a society; a policy that reconciles rather than clashes and looks for ways off the beaten track to unite and progress together, without leaving anyone behind. So, let’s finally deconstruct this stereotype and let’s get into politics and new voices, people, who like me, who don’t want to clash, but want to work in unison with everyone personally as a whole…for “us”.
What are the next steps in your career?
For now, I am giving my best to this mission I have been assigned. What I am now interested in is getting in touch with the world and communicating my vision and my work, about how culture unites us, which as I told you is the reason why I was involved in politics.
If you were dictated to quit politics, what would one thing be to make you change your mind?
Politics is linked to the city. It’s all political. Our way of life is politics. Theatre is politics. A man who is interested for his fellow man can only participate in politics. Politics is therefore not something that can be abandoned. Unless you go to live alone, somewhere deserted, and to tell you the truth I know personally, such a man, who again deals with politics through those who visit him and converse with him. I don’t know how you can give up politics…
Have you learned through life experiences to better confront difficult situations at present than you did in the past?
As long as we live, we learn, as they say. I always try to evolve and learn through experiences, mistakes and callous criticism. I am very happy.
(Translation: Helen Sergiou)