Nia Vardalos, the Canadian-American actress best known for the 2002 Academy Award–nominated film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, will speak on Friday evening, February 8. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, she is an Academy Award nominated screenwriter, actor, director and producer.
Vardalos was drawn to the performing arts early on. After studying theater and music at Toronto’s Ryerson University, she followed her natural instincts for comedy and took a job at the box-office of Toronto’s Second City theater; the home of comedy’s famed SCTV. Soon thereafter, when one of the performers fell ill, Vardalos volunteered herself on-stage as a last minute addition to the cast. Having spent hours studying the show from the back of the theater, Vardalos convinced the producers that she knew the sketches and could step in. Her performance so impressed the producers that she was given a permanent spot in the troupe as a performer and a writer. Vardalos then relocated to Chicago’s Second City ensemble where she went on to win Chicago’s Jeff Award for Best Actress.
Following her stints at Second City, Vardalos relocated to Los Angeles to pursue television and film work. While making small appearances in sit-coms such as The Drew Carey Show and Two Guys and a Girl, she began writing a screenplay about her wedding to husband and fellow actor Ian Gomez.
Unable to get the screenplay produced, Vardalos turned the material into a one woman show. As the writer, producer and star of her solo stage show My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Vardalos would find herself embarking on a journey which would eventually bring her worldwide acclaim. With a unique wit and irony, the stage performance of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” soon began commanding sold-out performances and became a must-see event for Los Angeles’ Greek community. It also drew the attention of Hollywood heavyweight-couple Rita Wilson, herself a member of the Greek community, and her husband Tom Hanks. Able to relate to the funny familial interactions which Vardalos portrayed in the show, Wilson and Hanks decided to produce Vardalos’ screenplay of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with Vardalos as the star.
Premiering in 2002, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was an immediate critical and box-office sensation, becoming one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time, and is still the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time. The film garnered Vardalos awards recognition for her writing and acting including an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay; a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical; a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture; a Broadcast Film Critics Association nomination for Best Writer; and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance.
Following the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Vardalos would write, produce and co-star with Toni Collette and David Duchovny in the buddy comedy Connie and Carla and co-star with Richard Dreyfuss in the romantic comedy My Life In Ruins.
She would make her directorial debut in 2009 with the comedy I Hate Valentine’s Day, which she would write and co-star in with My Big Fat Greek Wedding alum John Corbett.
Having become one of Hollywood’s most sought after comedic actor/writers Vardaloswould go on to co-write the box-office hit Larry Crowne starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and is currently penning the “anti-romantic comedy” Leftovers, in which she will star in and produce for Paramount Pictures. She also continues to make guest star appearances on television series such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Grey’s Anatomy, Cougar Town, and The Good Guys, among others.
This spring will find Vardalos publishing her first book Instant Mom, a witty, honest and poignant road-to-parenting story about the circumstances that led to the adoption of her daughter, the daily chaos of parenting, and the inspiration for her becoming a major advocate for adoption. With her signature comedic flair and candor, in Instant Mom Vardalos opens up about the heartaches and headaches, tears and laughter that make up what it means to be a parent.
In addition to her extensive writing, producing, and acting career, Vardalos continues to fundraise for the underprivileged, and is a spokesperson for National Adoption Day.