by Sherif Awad
I am Demi Pappa, born Dimitra Papagianni… Ι am coming from a Greek familly and I grew up in the beautiful Rhodes Island. My origins are from Central Greece, though (Thessaly). I feel Rhodes is my home town as I lived there the most years of my life and I go back to visit almost every year. My family has no background in arts so I cannot say that I grew up in an artistic environment. On the contrary. But there was always something attracting me towards this direction.From a very young age I absolutely loved books and performing arts.
When I was in the last classes of primary school I knew already that I wanted to be an actress. I don’t remember myself talking about that much as people were not open to a profession like this- on the contrary they were critical and negative. So I pretty much kept it for myself. My mother was very supportive and she helped me to find some connections to join a drama club when I was 15 years old. Since then acting is a huge part of my life and I am very happy about it.
-To be absolutely honest with you, I don’t think I ever had any role models. I was mainly admiring personalities and I was trying to ”pick” something different each time to help me with my personal route and way of thinking. I believe that every person is unique and the paths people choose to follow in their lives are totally different. I find this magical and very interesting.
I always had and still have passion for books so I was mainly admiring personalities (fictional or real) from the books I was reading. My favourite character is Anna Karenina from Leo’s Tolstoy book. Tolstoy is my favourite writer as well and I find his books masterpieces. I’ve always loved period films and I was absolutely obsessed with Sophie’s Marceau work as Anna in 1997 film by Bernard Rose. Sophie Marceau is an actress I admire but I wouldn’t say I had or have role models.
-For me studying and training to become a creator is absolutely essential. I was trained as an actress and I have learned many things the three years that my training lasted. I have lovely memories from my life as a drama school student. Ofcourse after drama school I had been to many seminars and courses about acting techniques and new information to me about performing arts and acting in particular.
Knowledge never stops. I keep training and practising. I am always trying to meet people mastering tools I don’t have earned yet as an actress, performer or creator. Learning is a treasure to me, it had always been. I always feel like my knowledge isn’t enough and keep looking out for something to intrigue me and keep me motivated as I tend to loose interest if things are getting gradually flat – a characteristic which only brought me in possitive situations so far.
-About celebrity, well, it is never satisfying for me now anytime you’ll going to ask me… I always want more, not in a greedy manner of speaking though. It is very important for me to celebrate small wins and this what I am doing. I had been very harsh and strict with myself because I am a perfectionist. When I was younger I trusted people easily and I was getting hurt easily. Now I am exactly the opposite but I had to work really hard to achieve it. Ofcourse stardom worldwide is something I wouldn’t say no to but that’s not my plan.
I was never chasing money, fame and recognition as a celebrity. What I want to do is acting and be part of works that I actually like and bring me joy. I couldn’t stand feeling miserable on the set or stage. I have said many no’s so far. My physical appearence helped me to have some work offers but not the kind of offers I would say yes anyway. I am very specific with my choices. If stardom worldwide knocks my door I will happily open it but if not I will be equally happy.
-Being a female actor isn’t easy at all. Since I first started I have met people of the industry with power and professional recognition trying to take advantage of situations, some tried to be abusive and make me feel horrible, some others approached me in an inappropriate way, I mean sexually . Luckily I had never felt vulnerable, so from the very first minute I was cutting off these behaviours and answer back according to the situation. Ofcourse I have lost lots of work opportunities because of this instant reactions and I have earned the dislike of ”important” personalities but I don’t bother. I would do the same again and again. I’ve learned how to stand for myself physically and emotionally since my teen age that I had no other option but to deal with unpleasant and violent situations.
Unfortunately (mainly) women are still being treated in unacceptable ways.Not only in my profession but in our industry’s easier to happen because of the nature of the work. We need to able to beat all these challenges even if we risk unemployment or rejection. At least from my point of view.
-Τhe last five years I live and work in London. In a way I had to start over at the age of 33 but I didn’t bother . The industry here runs in a completely different way than it does in Greece. I tried very hard to fit in my country before making the decision to leave but there was always a feeling that it’s not for me. I am not saying that Greece isn’t a good country to work in, on the contrary there are amazing Greek actors and remarkable works and opportunities on stage and TV etc, I was just feeling kind of exposed and something was missing.It was an ” about me” thing.
In London and the UK, in general, the creative industry is still hanging on. Stage productions are obviously on hold because of the pandemic but the market is massive and there are many work opportunities in commercials, films, TV, corporate and online. UK has an extremely good Casting Director network with great connections worldwide . During the pandemic they gave actors a great opportunity to connect and introduce themselves which was a great move from CD’s side.
Things are not running the way they used to do but we still got self-taping requests and work opportunities. We do need a little of more luck currently but it’s hard times for most of the professions so I guess we need to stay cal and patient and see how it goes.
Self-taping and Zoom or Skype auditions and recalls are the new reality. In the beginning I was feeling kind of nervous but I got used to this new reality now.
-I have absolutely no complains about casting biz and casting procedure so far. Before pandemic occasionally, I had to attend three different castings my agent booked for me, in the same day, in different locations in London, which was a bit stressful in terms of being there on time , commuting, if you think about the delays during the casting etc. Now with self-tape reality you can be less stressed and focus on the creative and technical part of your audition.
Casting directors gave actors a huge opportunity to connect with them via social media, mainly with twitter and a bit less with instagram. I am trying to stay on track and be a professional. This is very important for my acting image.
– For new project:It depends on from where they are coming from. If they are coming from my agent or platforms like Spotlight, I fully trust them and proceed. If I am being contacted directly I am very reluctant and either I am asking my agent to research and offer me advice before I reply or I kindly ask them to contact my agent for further communication. This tactic has saved me as I have received some weird work offers from other countries like India which were not making sense, so I nicely said ”No, Thank you.”
I am open to communicate with freelance directors and producers and if I feel that I like a project or a script and terms are clear and professional then why not. I do not like working for free and I have stopped doing that the last years. I will do it only if a collegue-friend-creator wants me to be part of his film,show and we’re having a special bond and things in common,only then. I also don’t like doing profit share works anymore unless I have a strong and decision making word in production. Profit share can work only when the vision is common and there’s a very specific and perfectly organised plan.
-I do not consider that my greatest achievement is a particular show or performance so far. I would rather say that my gratest achievement applies mainly on my skills as an actress and on my perspective as a professional. I have achieved so far my performance to be equally good in Greek and Enlish.Also I have done great work on international accents and I am still practising to get better, it’s a brilliant skill as it gives you flexibility as a performer and widens your acting range. Regarding the perpective I’ve mentionted, I have recently been realising new ways to approach my professional profile and enrich my skills in communication and marketing.Marketing is really important as well in our industry.
-Parallel to arts I am a full time mother and partner. I adore my family and it’s my source of energy and possitivity. Currently I have to do in and between jobs if I want to survive.Life is expensive and I have no other option. But I am not complaining. Accepting reality is the first step to be happy. I am a happy person and now more than ever I know exactly what I want from life.
-An advice to newcomes? I basically don’t like giving advice -and I am not the right person to give advice but since you’re asking me I would say to newcomers to be themselves, stand for themselves without the fear of rejection or unemployment,they both will happen at some point especially rejection is something you have to embrace otherwise you won’t survive. Do it your way and do not take advice coming from people with the ”talent” to provide them widely and wisely without being able to apply them in their own lives and most importantly when they offer you advice you haven’t even asked for.Be nice and humble.
-I cannot believe how much I was struggling to find a balance between these two in the past. My private life is my source of energy and creativity for my professional practice. There is a myth saying that you have to choose between family and career. I strongly disagree. My family is my motivation and my support. Obviously there will be practical issues but everything can be sorted when you have good team players and my team is the best. When I stopped considering my private life as an obstacle for my professional practice that very instant moment problem was solved. Ignore the stereotypes,they cannot be any good.
-I have had started working on something that I wanted to produce myself but it’s been postponed as it’s a stage performance taking place in a very specific location. For the time being ,travelling isn’t easy and theatres are shut.So a change of plans might be necessary. In the meantime I don’t know what’s about to happen. I am meant to be filming a short film early in 2021 which had been postponed earlier in 2020 due to issues related to pandemic but I don’t know anything yet. Some productions are being postponed or even cancelled.It’s happening a lot lately.So I cannot really plan anything. Iam just hoping for the best, waiting patiently and be as much creative as I can.