Hollywood Insider: Actor and Writer Michael Dukakis on the power of imagination and experience

Actor, writer and artistic director Michael Dukakis in this exclusive interview with Hollywood World Magazine talks about his recent artistic projects, his career highlights and his travel plans for London and LA.  Michael is a member of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. He has trained extensively in fine arts, acting, and on Stanislavsky’s method. Michael Dukakis also served as the Artistic director of “A Nest for Artists” theatre team.

Hollywood World: What do you love about the role that you are currently playing? 

Michael Dukakis: These days I am preparing to fly to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bali for starting on a new project. After that, I’m going to Lesvos island (Greece) where I organize art festivals and theater workshops for children and adults.

So currently, my mind is between the new countries I’m gonna visit and the new performance I’m gonna prepare with my young students.

Let me explain that a little bit. Last two years I was lucky enough to travel in three different continents, visit more than ten different countries and more than 40 different cities. And I feel that these trips are educating me and broadens my mind. I feel that I’m becoming more mature, maybe becoming a better actor too. I’m having a better understanding of different people and different cultures all over the world.

The second half of my mind is with my young students and the performance we will create in the next couple months. As I watch their progress, see them growing up and following a good path in life, transforming into action all the stuff I am trying to transplant into them (through theater, philosophy, and psychology) I feel proud of being part of a new kind of people, with great values and quality. I don’t mind how many of my students might become actors, artists, writers etc but I really care about see them becoming great human beings and the last years I see it happening. Those children give my life an awesome purpose. Also organizing this in isolated areas, where people wouldn’t have that chance, or volunteering as I do many years now, makes it for me more special, more emotional.

So I would say that my role as a teacher and a world traveler is what I love the most now till I will have a new part in a movie that I’ll fall in love with.

Hollywood World: What makes a good scene partner?

Michael Dukakis: In my opinion, a good scene partner is someone who is really present all the time, really listens to you and reacts in a helpful way so that in every case (depending on the role) will help the emotions occur. My best scene partners were those who didn’t take acting as a job but as an enjoyable way of living and they were always available to go the extra mile just to make magic. Because I believe in magic moments in acting, I believe there will be unexpected breakthrough in the scene, I believe in something more than what lines say. It’s magical for me what you allow your unconscious mind, your instinct, and your imagination to give birth to. And to know how to recreate or to give life to a character . If you cannot do this, then you are missing a great quality of the acting experience.

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Hollywood World: What are your favorite projects you have been part of?  

Michael Dukakis: I will just mention two projects because acting is my passion and whenever speak about it, I usually forget to stop.

I fell in love with a musical called “Darkland” where I had to transform into many different, misunderstood heroes from well-known fairytales. Generally, I love escaping in a different world, and while exploring the different heroes of darkness I found out how much light and misunderstanding lies behind them.

The other project I love and I always look forward to performing again is called “The funeral speech”. It’s a monologue of a 73 year old writer who speaks for more than an hour to a friend on the phone about a funeral. It is a dark comedy.

Monologues are super risky and demanding. Especially for young actors like me, because a lot of experience is needed to perform alone and I didn’t know if I would be able to make it work. After many performances of the same play in many different cities, (with the same enthusiasm from the people who watched it) I can say that this is one of my most successful projects to date. Being on a chair for more than an hour, making people believe that I’m very old (73 years) and making a full theater laugh all the time and seeing them really satisfied after my performance, was a great blessing for me.

Hollywood World: How much experience do you have in the field?  

Michael Dukakis: I have been studying acting and performing for the last 15 years. I began performing whilst I was at school. But I was not allowed to become an actor then (my parents didn’t want me to). I passed my high school exams and went to university where I studied Fine Arts.  Afterward, I managed to become an independent actor and was able to pursue what I always loved. In few words, we can say that officially, I have been a professional actor for five years with 15 years of acting experience.

Hollywood World: Describe your best quality as an actor? 

Michael Dukakis: I believe in strong experiences, in discipline, in very careful choices and I also believe in an instinct that guides me to search where the deepest truth is and where a deeper meaning of life lies. But I strongly believe that my best quality as an actor is my imagination. I’ve had a hard life, got into many troubles, extreme experiences and had to overcome many obstacles (not saying that just to be dramatic but to tell you that for me -and my small village, where I was born- becoming an actor was the toughest path I could ever follow) and my imagination always helped me to escape in my a private magic land that my mind created.  I could always create and live in a world that I had under construction in my mind, and this way I had the strength to stay alive through really hard situations. So credits to my imagination!

This way I can have a very clear picture of other lives, and make myself really believe every new role and give it my all to get into a new universe every time I perform a new role.

Hollywood World: What do you enjoy the most about your job?

Michael Dukakis: I never get bored! I enjoy the fact that there is always something new to learn, another character to explore, another sensory exercise that brings up more hidden emotions, and always a new aspect of freedom that you were not  aware existed.

Hollywood World: What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

Michael Dukakis: I’ve learned how to be always open to different approaches. Every director had a unique way to bring you to the path he imagines, so you shall always be a “tabula rasa”, ready to keep new recordings, new notes.

I still remember how mad I was once with a director who never allowed me to say more than 10 – 20 words without stopping me.  It took me some days to understand why she was so hard on me.  I eventually realized how detailed her work was and how awesome our performance was becoming.  I could not stop thanking her for pushing me to perform my best.

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Hollywood World: From where have you learned acting? What training do you have? 

Michael Dukakis: I was born and raised in a very small village so I had no idea about acting until junior high school. One of my teachers (Adonis Milonakis) told me that there is something special in me (speaking about the way I was reading the stories he was asking us to read during the class, and the way  I was not just reading them but bringing them to life). After some months he invited me in a theater play (without telling me that this is the special thing he sees in me) and there I realized that I found a purpose in life and immediately lost my appetite for anything else. That experience was so enlightening that I can never forget.

My training includes a three years full-time drama school -“Karolos Koun” Greek Art Theatre – in Athens. After I graduated drama school I went to London and I had a masterclass in acting for screen, and then the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain had chosen me to study and complete the “epic stages” training. After completing this, I became a member of the NYT of Great Britain.

Also, I’ve been trained in Stanislavsky’s method by Andreas Manolikakis (a lifetime member of New York’s “Actors Studio” and Chairman of the MFA at Pace University).

I’ve also done many seminars, workshops, and classes in Los Angeles during 2017 and 2018.

Hollywood World: What has been your biggest achievement in the field of acting?

Michael Dukakis: I would like to mention the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain because it was like a miracle to me. It was my first month in London and I couldn’t even speak the language (fortunately now I have a great accent and I’m very fluent in English too) so it was amazing that they saw a good quality in my acting while I was acting for film and (despite my accent) they choose me, like an exception, as a very talented person, to get into their “epic stages” training so that I can improve my skills. After I successfully completed that training I became a member of  the NYT of Great Britain and I’m very grateful for that.

Hollywood World: What other types of movies would you be interested in filming?

Michael Dukakis: I’ll tell you some series I am currently watching and I would love to be part of. “Black Mirror” and  “Westworld”. Or if I had the chance, I would like, once in this life, to perform such a unique magical character like “Edward Scissorhands”.

Hollywood World: How do you see your role as an actor? 

Michael Dukakis: The word actor in Greek is “Ithopios” which means the man who creates ethos. That’s how I feel about acting and that’s why I approach it with a lot of respect. I believe that when yu say your lines and you have moments that the world can see, you should have something really good to say, something that will inspire people to be their best selves.

Hollywood World: What is your secret?

Michael Dukakis: I’ve got many secrets and if I tell you it won’t be a secret anymore 😉

Hollywood World: What other hobbies do you have? 

Michael Dukakis: Writing, singing, listening to music, painting, reading, watching movies, martial arts, swimming, dancing, cooking, and diving.

Hollywood World: Who is your role model?

Michael Dukakis: All those people you are trying to make this world a better place. I feel sometimes that I’m like a sponge. I absorb and adopt all good stuff I see in other people that I admire.

Michael Dukakis: I also am very inspired of one of Kazantzaki’s quotes which says: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am Free”.

Hollywood World: What makes you feel like a star?

Michael Dukakis: I don’t feel like a star.  🙂  🙂

But if I should speak about great feelings through acting, I would just tell you about the times I lost the sense of place and time and I felt closer to a universal energy. This usually happens after a great performance. Those times that you feel so satisfied and full like you are out of your human body for a while. But those are very special, unique moments and doesn’t happen so often. I’m grateful for that. It has been a blessing those few times and I’m always working and ready for that experience to happen again.

Hollywood World: Any tips on how to be a successful actor?

Michael Dukakis: A successful actor for me is somebody who is an example of humility and ethos. The man who’s acting can break icebergs, can make mountains move and make the seas open in the middle, creating a path for justice and freedom. It might sound too much but as I told you before,  imagination is one of my biggest weapons in facing this life! Furthermore, a successful actor for me doesn’t mean making a thousand movies. On the contrary, I believe in quality over quantity. Also when I mention “Ethos” add to it all the philosophy and great meaning that ancient Greeks include in this word.

Hollywood World: What do you want to be remembered for in life? What valuable lessons have you learned that helped you become the person you are today? 

Michael Dukakis: I would like most of the people I met to remember that I gave my soul in trying to improve whatever I could, help wherever I could and tried to never hurt anyone. That even through drama and their tears, I had a connection. Even through comedy and their loud unstoppable laughter, I had a great satisfaction. I had a great connection with them through acting, which, sometimes, is even stronger than what we people have in one of our typical everyday life. Love above everything like that “Nature Boy” song!

The last valuable lesson I learnt was in 2016. I had the worst relationship of my life and when I managed to escape from that depression I decided that I’m gonna change, I’m gonna take responsibilities on protecting my feelings and I will never ever again allow anyone to treat me so badly. It was a dramatic realization that shocked me (what I allowed to happen) and made me the person I am today. The person I am today is very optimistic, is taking huge risks, is living and enjoying life like there no tomorrow, and finally, is attracting all the good stuff that can happen. The person I am today feels that everything is possible and, of course, part of what I am today is thanks to my best friends who are critical enough to wake me up whenever I am dreaming too much and generous enough to give me the wings to fly so that I can make my wishes come true!

Hollywood World: What’s next? 

Michael Dukakis: I will fly to London for a new shoot and I will be searching for an acting agent in Los Angeles. A great agent who really cares about me and is not just looking to fill his books.  I will  also apply for literature agencies. My new script and an older novel are ready and they can’t wait to find their way to the big screen.

Thank you for the interview. All the best for Hollywood World magazine!

*Photo Credit: Gizelle Dalmage

 

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