New Greek TV's Greek of the Week is media extraordinaire Christina Vlahos.
The Greek-Canadian has held a wide array of positions in the field, including writer, producer, host, and blogger, among others. In our interview below, the Wicked Games author reveals how she got her start, the success of her Gringlish Girl blog, Greek background, future plans, and more.
Maria Athens: Can you offer an overview of your career before writing Wicked Games?
Christina Vlahos: I began my career in show business at the age of 22 at the world's oldest film studio – MGM/UA in the publicity & promotions department in the Toronto, Canada office. Five years later Sony bought the studio and I moved to Andaluscia, Spain to study Spanish.
I returned to Toronto for a job with business impresario Charles Khabouth, as his publicist and PR Director for all his properties, INK. After 3 years of working with talent from all over the world, including a new INK venture in Las Vegas, I decided to leave and moved back into film and production, working for a company based in Athens, Greece.
There I worked in various capacities, head of communications, international co-productions, show developer, and eventually was scouted as a voice over artist and presenter. Since then, I have written and produced several commercials, and developed several shows for TV and web, including one for Kalomoira, whom I visited in New York with American producer Danny Passman. The show concept was intended for an American network, but not picked up.
Maria Athens: What was the inspiration behind your novel?
Christina Vlahos: The book Wicked Games derived from a 2013 trip to Greece, where I was commissioned to film a commercial. Instead of a 3-week trip, I stayed for 7 months – to the date. During my trip, a variety of life changing events occurred.
Being all alone it was difficult for me to deal with everything, so I began keeping a journal based upon the advice of my Uncle Bill whom I spoke with daily on Skype (from Chicago). Months after I returned to Canada I found the journal buried in a drawer and decided to transcribe the notes into my computer. I began creating chapters, adding fantasy, characters, and new scenarios, and alas a story was born.
Maria Athens: Can you describe the process of writing your first publication?
Christina Vlahos: Wicked Games was a labor of love, sweat, tears, and therapy! While it's not a true story, it certainly was inspired by real events, and events that led me to understand why we do, what we do. It was the ultimate journey to self-awareness.
Maria Athens: What is your blog Gringlish Girl about?
Christina Vlahos: Gringlish Girl is a term I've used for years. In each city I worked, people consistently made remarks about the way I spoke! I typically throw in phrases from different languages and love to be cosmopolitan. When I was in North America they called me Greek girl, in Spain I was Griega-Canadiense, and in Greece and Europe, I was the 'kseni' (the foreigner).
The blog itself started in response to girlfriends asking me for love & relationship advice (although I don't know why – I had become the voice of reason)! So, I began researching and writing articles about love & relationships, then added different categories and eventually I created a podcast.
I developed the podcast to showcase the awesome work of talented people in showbiz in Greece. Greek ex-pats, especially second and third generations were always asking me about entertainment in Greece, so I decided to bring it closer to them – in Greek & English. Talent in Greece also reached out to me about showcasing their work, they love reaching out and connecting to fans worldwide. I'm continuing to diversify with cool content & interviews!
Maria Athens: Can you tell us about your Greek-Canadian background?
Christina Vlahos: I was born in Canada form Greek immigrant parents. I spoke and understood Greek first, although I consider English my native tongue. I've never felt like I belonged to one particular group, especially in Canada where the system does not promote the cultural melting pot. Instead you're encouraged to hang onto your identity, we all become apart of a cultural mosaic.
Maria Athens: How much of an influence does your Greek heritage have on your life?
Christina Vlahos: My Greek heritage has shaped every aspect of my life. It was never about language, nationality, or culture, for me it was a lifestyle. It shaped, morals, decisions, religious views, culture, what I want, and don't want out of life, and how I understand and relate to people.
Growing up with a combination of different cultures begs you to discover your true identity. I think Nia Vardalos had a brilliant way of depicting that comically in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Maria Athens: Will Wicked Games be adapted into a movie?
Christina Vlahos: Wicked Games (available on Amazon.com) is currently being adapted into a screenplay and film script by talented screenwriter, Philippos Desyllas. I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Desyllas in Greece (he wrote Pethainw Gia Sena/I'm Dying For You, with Greek actress Elena Rantou). I always thought highly of him and when a film project we were working on in Greece, didn't go through, I knew one day I'd work with him again, I just didn't know in which capacity.
Besides the fact that he is one of the most talented writers I've met, and has some of the best "one-liners" I've ever heard, he's a great person, and someone I see myself working with on future projects. I am actually leaving for Greece in a week to join him in the writing process. We hope to have a final script for the film by fall, and then we will be attaching talent and moving forward with financing for a major feature film!
Maria Athens: Is there a sequel in the works?
Christina Vlahos: I have actually started writing Wicked Island which is the sequel to Wicked Games, and depending on the outcome, I may be writing a third installment. If this happens, it will be a prequel to the story. So it will take readers a good 10 years back in time, into the lives of all the characters! (But don't tell anyone - this is top secret ;)!
Maria Athens: What personal and professional feats are you most proud of?
Christina Vlahos: I've always followed my heart, even when that meant leaving an executive position and chasing a dream. There are a lot of different routes you can take on this road – I chose the scenic one – even further people in the industry called me a masochist. I wasn't self-sabotaging myself; I simply refused to sacrifice my beliefs and morals to make it quickly.
From all my years of working in show biz, writing Wicked Games is the one project I am most proud of. It was a project that was both the most natural, and most difficult for me –and it changed my career, and life. I'm also very proud that I've never lived in 'show business', I've worked in show business, but I never lived that lifestyle. It's kept me grounded and focused on my goals. I'd rather people be familiar with my work than my name.
Maria Athens: What's next for Christina Vlahos?
Christina Vlahos: I am gearing up to go to Greece in a week to film, host and produce a show for TV and web. It's an original show I developed, and although I cannot reveal any details right now, I can say it includes, food, celebrities, and Greece's master chef break out star, Angelo Kardaris!
The show is in Greek and English, has a reality twist, and is aimed at all Greek generations and lovers of Greek culture around the globe! It will air on my Youtube channel – Gringlish TV! I will also be producing it for television audiences for a network in Greece, as well as satellite networks.
Currently you can hear me on Agape Greek Radio on CHIN Radio in Toronto. The show airs every Sunday @ 2 pm EST, and the station is also gearing up to go 24/7 on the internet on agapegreekradio.com, where I will have my own show featuring a variety of topics and of course focusing on Greek show biz in true Gringlish style!