Actress Nia Vardalos

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, People
on December 22, 2002

We laughed until we cried at the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Can you tell us a bit about Nia Vardalos, who wrote the script and starred in the film? We heard that Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, discovered her.
—Tony G., Maryland

Nia Vardalos, the woman behind the sleeper hit movie of the year, grew up in Winnipeg, Canada. Yes, she is Greek, from a very traditional family. She got her start working in the box office of the Toronto company of Chicago's famous Second City group. When one of the cast members had to be rushed to the hospital 10 minutes before curtain time, she told the producers she knew the show inside out, and they put her on. Impressed with her performance, the producers asked her to join the group. She eventually moved on to the Chicago Second City troupe, where she met and married fellow performer Ian Gomez. For years, the actress and writer entertained her friends with hilarious stories about her family, until one of them said she should turn it into a show. That's exactly what she did, and the one-woman show became a hit. Rita Wilson, also of Greek descent, brought her mother to see the show and loved it. She visited Vardalos backstage, then later sent husband Tom Hanks to see the show with the idea that it should be turned into a movie. Two months later, Hanks' production company offered to make the movie, with Vardalos keeping the lead role. Vardalos' other credits include The Drew Carey Show and Boy Meets World and the features Men Seeking Women and Meet Prince Charming.