Antonia Eugenia “Nia” Vardalos
Nia Vardalos is a Canadian-American actress, screenwriter, director, and producer of Greek descent. Her most notable work is the 2002 Academy Award–nominated film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was based on a one-woman stage play she dramatized and in which she starred.
Vardalos was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on September 24, 1962. She is the daughter of Greek Canadian parents Doreen Christakis, a bookkeeper and homemaker, and Constantine “Gus” Vardalos, a land developer. She attended St. George School and Shaftesbury High School in Winnipeg and Ryerson University in Toronto. She married American actor Ian Gomez on September 5, 1993. Gomez converted to Greek Orthodoxy prior to marrying her. In 2008, they adopted a daughter named Ilaria. She posted an advice column about the adoption process at The Huffington Post. She became a U.S. citizen in 1999.
An alumna of the Chicago-based Second City comedy repertory company, Vardalos had many small roles in television shows such as The Drew Carey Show and Two Guys and a Girl; in addition, she provided voices for the 1996 radio adaptation of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi which Brian Daley had written for National Public Radio.
She gained fame with her movie about a woman’s struggle to find love in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was based on a one-woman show which Vardalos had previously written for the theater and starred in onstage. The film was a huge critical and commercial success. The film earned Vardalos an Academy Award Nomination for Best Writing, a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and a Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination.
The sleeper hit, which quickly became one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time, led to the unsuccessful CBS spin-off series, My Big Fat Greek Life. The show was cancelled after seven episodes and featured the entire cast from the film, aside from John Corbett.
Her next film, released in 2004, was Connie and Carla, a musical about two women pretending to be drag queens.
Vardalos made her directorial debut in 2009 with the independent feature I Hate Valentine’s Day. The film, about a florist finding romance, received only a limited release and grossed $1,985,260 at the international box-office. This was followed by My Life in Ruins, about a misguided tour-guide travelling around Greece and featuring Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss. The film was the first American production given permission to film at the Acropolis; Vardalos sought the approval from the Greek government. The film was a moderate success at both the international box-office and DVD sales.
In 2011, Vardalos collaborated with Tom Hanks to write the romantic comedy film Larry Crowne for the screen. The film received moderate reviews and was a commercial success, grossing $59.8 million; Vardalos also voiced the character Map Genie in the film. As of 2013, Vardalos was slated to star in the upcoming films Talk of the Town (2012) and A Wilderness of Monkeys (2013).
Vardalos joined many celebrities helping to produce The 1 Second Film art project; she herself was featured in The Dialogue, an interview series. In this 90 minute interview with producer Mike DeLuca, Vardalos talked about how her experiences in The Second City comedy troupe helped her as an actress and a screenwriter, and how the unofficial “tell-the-Greek” word-of-mouth program had a hand in catapulting her movie to such great heights. She performed The Beatles song “Golden Slumbers” on the 2006 charity album Unexpected Dreams – Songs from the Stars.
Vardalos’s struggle to become a mother, which ultimately led her and husband Ian Gomez to adopt after thirteen distinct in vitro fertilization attempts had failed, made its way into a book she wrote, Instant Mom, which was published in 2014.
Vardalos starred in and co-wrote the sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which was released in March 2016. It was less successful than the original had been; however it earned over $60 million from an $18 million budget.
Since 2015, Vardalos and her husband Ian Gomez have co-presented The Great American Baking Show, formerly known as The Great Holiday Baking Show.
Kevin David Sorbo
Kevin Sorbo was born in Mound, Minnesota, where he attended Mound Westonka High School. He is the son of Ardis, a nurse, and Lynn Sorbo, a junior high school mathematics and biology teacher. His father is of Norwegian descent, while his mother has English, German and Scottish ancestry. He was raised in a Lutheran family. Sorbo attended Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he double majored in marketing and advertising. To help make tuition, he began to work as a model for print and television advertising.
In the mid 1980’s, Sorbo started working as a model for print and television advertising and worked in over 150 commercials by 1993. His acting career began with guest appearances in several television series such as Santa Barbara, 1st & Ten, Murder She Wrote and The Commish. He was considered for and lost out to Dean Cain as Superman in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and was a possible contender for the role of Agent Mulder in The X Files which went to David Duchovny. He appeared in a popular series of international TV ads for Jim Beam bourbon whiskey, known for Sorbo’s repeated catchphrase “It ain’t Jim Beam”.
In 1994, he got his breakthrough leading role of Hercules in the television film Hercules and the Amazon Women which aired on April 25, 1994. This was the first of a series of television films which aired during the year and was followed by the hugely successful syndicated television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys which ran from January 1995 to November 1999 and lasted for 111 episodes. Sorbo also directed two episodes of the series during its run. The success of the show spawned the popular spin-off series Xena: Warrior Princess in which Sorbo also guest starred. In 1998, he voiced Hercules in the spin-off direct-to-video animated film Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus. After Hercules came to an end in 1999, Sorbo reprised the role for a final appearance in the Xena: Warrior Princess season five episode “God Fearing Child” which aired in 2000.
In between the years playing Hercules, he played his first leading film role in Kull the Conqueror (1997). After Hercules came to an end, Sorbo played the starring role of Captain Dylan Hunt in the science-fiction drama series Andromeda from 2000 to 2005. In 2006, he played a recurring role on the final season of The O.C. and guest-starred in the sitcom Two and a Half Men. In 2007, he starred in the direct-to-video film Walking Tall: The Payback, which was a sequel to the 2004 film Walking Tall. He reprised his role in the second sequel, Walking Tall: Lone Justice which released later that year. He also starred in the Lifetime Channel film Last Chance Café, the Hallmark Channel film Avenging Angel, co-starring his real life wife Sam Jenkins and guest starred as a bounty hunter in the season-two episode “Bounty Hunters!” of the series Psych. He appeared in the 2008 spoof film Meet the Spartans, which was a box office success despite being universally negatively reviewed by critics. He starred in the Albert Pyun directed science fiction vampire film Tales of an Ancient Empire.
He served as Executive Producer and star of the movie Abel’s Field in 2012. In 2012, Sorbo appeared in an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories to recount an experience he had while in Minnesota shortly after he graduated from college. He and his girlfriend claimed to have seen the ghost of the “Bride of White Rock Lake” – a woman who supposedly died on her wedding day, murdered by a former lover.
Sorbo voiced one of the main protagonists, Prometheus, in the Wii video game The Conduit. Sorbo returned to the role of Hercules in a more sinister portrayal, in the video game God of War III, which was released for the PlayStation 3 in March 2010.
In July 2013, Sorbo, along with his wife, Sam, provided voice over for characters in the video game Cloudberry Kingdom. In 2014, Sorbo co-starred in God’s Not Dead, a Christian film in which he portrayed an atheist college professor who requires his students to disown their religions on the first day of his class. He also voiced Crusher in the Skylanders franchise and Retro Hercules in Smite.
In 2017, Sorbo played the ill-fated King Lar Gand of Daxam on the CW series Supergirl. Ironically, he appeared opposite Teri Hatcher as his wife Queen Rhea. 24 years earlier they were almost cast opposite each other in Lois and Clark before Sorbo lost out to Dean Cain. Cain also appeared in the same series but did not share any scenes with them.
Phillip Bradley “Brad” Bird
Born September 24, 1957 is an American director, screenwriter, animator, producer and occasional voice actor, known for animated and live-action films.
Bird developed a love for the art of animation at an early age and was mentored by Milt Kahl, one of Disney‘s legendary Nine Old Men. He was part of one of the earliest graduating classes of the California Institute of the Arts alongside John Lasseter and Tim Burton. Afterwards, Bird worked as an animator for Disney and wrote the screenplay for Batteries Not Included (1987). Bird served as a creative consultant on The Simpsons during its first eight seasons, where he helped develop the show’s animation style. Afterwards, Bird left to direct his first animated feature, The Iron Giant (1999), which fared poorly at the box office but came to be regarded as a modern animated classic. He rejoined Lasseter at Pixar in 2000, where he would develop his second picture, The Incredibles (2004), and his third picture, Ratatouille (2007). Both films place among Pixar’s highest-grossing features and gave Bird two Academy Award for Best Animated Feature wins and Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay nominations.
In 2011, Bird directed his first live-action film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which became the highest-grossing and best reviewed film of its franchise. His second live-action film, Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney, was released in May 2015.
Bird was born in Kalispell, Montana, the youngest of four children of Marjorie A. (née Cross) and Philip Cullen Bird. His father worked in the propane business, and his grandfather, Francis Wesley “Frank” Bird, who was born in County Sligo, Ireland, was a president and chief executive of the Montana Power Company.
On a tour of the Walt Disney Studiosat age 11, he announced that someday he would become part of its animation team, and soon afterward began work on his own 15-minute animated short. Within two years, Bird had completed his animation, which impressed the cartoon company. By age 14, barely in high school, Bird was mentored by the animator Milt Kahl, one of Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men. Bird recalls Kahl’s criticisms as ideal: Kahl would point out shortcomings by gently delivering thoughts on where Bird could improve. After graduating from Corvallis High School in Corvallis, Oregon in 1975, Bird took a three-year break. He was then awarded a scholarship by Disney to attend California Institute of the Arts, where he met and befriended another future animator, Pixar co-founder and director John Lasseter.