Peter Kalos:South Melbourne is where I spent most of my youth.
CW:What journey has your life taken you on?
Peter Kalos: How many pages can I answer this in? As far as geographically, I’ve spend roughly half my life here in Melbourne and half of it in Los Angeles. As far as creatively and finding my own voice as an artist, I have gone to places I never even knew existed. But all that came through amazing acting teachers like Stella Adler who I spent three years with and people like Mark Marno and Susan Peretz at the Lee Strasberg Institute and Barry Primus who’s an amazing friend and teacher at the Actors Studio. Those people, along with an insane amount of hard work took me to a whole other level and understanding of our work as actors and filmmakers. Along that journey, I met some amazing people that I never thought I would meet – my idols like DeNiro etc. That whole process shaped me as the person I am today. I have many fond memories and I don’t regret any of it.
CW:Who were your influences?
Peter Kalos: There’s a saying that goes “Think globally, act locally” – along that same thought process there were many “local” influences in my life.
My parents for starters never put any restrictions or pressure on me when I said I wanted to pursue this path- I’m sure they head a heart attack when at age 20 I said I wanted to move to LA and ended up staying there for over 20 years- but they gave me the freedom to be able to express those desires. Not easy to do as a parent. And then there were many of my uncles which I love dearly – sharing stories with me about my ancestors and the many adventures they had migrating here- but there’s two that helped push me over the edge- one of them was one of my closest uncles- Uncle Taki which once said to me “If you don’t know who Brando is then you know nothing about Acting” and he made me watch “On the Waterfront” with him explaining to me how the director was Greek etc. (Kazan). And the other was a good family friend who ‘s a chef- “Uncle George” and once casually over the dinner table he said “I believe every man should pick up his sword in his life and fight for what he wants!” I remember thinking… “What am I doing? Am I even carrying the right sword in my had? And am I fighting enough?’ I soaked up all these things from my family and they propelled me to go seek my own adventure.
As far as what you might call “global “influences, well yeah as a young actors most guys have the standard… DeNiro, Pacino, Brando, Hoffmann influences, those guys were the big ones in my time and they changed my life. Once I saw the film “Once Upon A time in America” I dropped out of college, packed my bags (or bag actually) and left.
CW: What were some of the hardships you had to overcome?
Peter Kalos: Ultimately our own fears are the biggest obstacle. My generation is the product of immigrant parents and that comes with a very powerful word “Prosehe!” Our parents had their great adventure, and for the most part it wasn’t by choice, it was by necessity to find a better life for their kids (us) they left their homes and set off to the other side of the world with no language, no money, and no idea of where they were headed- but they did it, they didn’t let fear stop them. Because of that, I think many of them overcompensated with the fear factor- they tried to protect our children by saying “prosehe” about this and “prosehe” about that and I find that many people from my generation didn’t actually set sail out to their own adventures out of fear. And we should’ve because we grew up with many safety nets- we had parents, we understood the language, there were no wars in going on in Melbourne when we were growing up- so because of their sacrifice we had the luxury to actually look into what we desired to do and pursue in our lives. But many people didn’t out of fear- fear of being judged, fear of failing etc. I tell many of my cousins, our parents had their adventure where’s yours? Breaking away from that, claiming what you want to do with your life and actually pursuing it takes a lot of courage and overcoming a lot of fear. It was DeNiro himself who said to me “You never overcome fear, you just learn to work with it. “
CW:Why did you decide to move into teaching?
Peter Kalos: I came back to Melbourne and though- this is all I know… I have all this knowledge and I have to pass it on, it’s all I can do. Outside my field I’m a total idiot, I can hardly function but in my field, in my specialty as an acting teacher- I can say this with quite confidence that I know shit and I don’t say that with ego- it’s a fact. I can teach actors amazing things- I paid my dues I learned amazing things and now I want to pass that knowledge onto people. I can just hear some people saying “hey you’re trying to sell me classes etc.” but it’s not about money- if I wanted to make money I would’ve stayed in college- and all this knowledge didn’t come free to me either, I paid a stupid amount of money to gain that knowledge. This goes way beyond money, it’s about improving our artistic community and the quality of our work so that we find a voice and put it into our films and our theatre as Greek / Australians otherwise that perspective will be lost and our grandkids won’t even know what it was about. That’s’ what it comes down to.
CW: Why did you move back to Melbourne?
Peter Kalos: My kids! That was the main reason. Yolley, who’s my wife and am amazing woman is an African American lady from Brooklyn, we were at a crossroads in our life in LA, and if we went one direction we would’ve been more successful financially and still be in LA, but if we went the other direction and came back to Melbourne my kids would grow up here in Melbourne – get to know what ‘Yaya and Papou means” get to know what it means to be a Greek / Australian – all the stuff most people take for granted over here or are trying to shy away from, you cherish when you lived away from it for 20 years. And I wanted my kids to have that experience and understand where I came from. I had to make my choice because if we had stayed there longer, my kids would’ve gone onto college in LA and it it would’ve been more difficult to pack up and move back here. But in once aspect it did backfire because my oldest son went back to there and joined the American Army- he said to me “Dad, I’m American” and I get it – he’s been stationed in Korea now for two years- but he listens to Greek music and has an icon or two along his bed so the trip here made a mark on him He said to me “Hey at least I know what Oakleigh is all about now” Hahaha so I guess it was worth it- so thank you Oakleigh and the Greek community here. It’s very special what we have here.
CW: What’s in stall for the future?
Peter Kalos: Melbourne is in stall for the future… I don’t want to go back to LA, I like it here, I get to go fishing with my uncles, I get to have a coffee with my dad at Vanilla in the mornings, hat isn’t there to like? But I do want to make films here and give Melbourne the voice it needs. I worked as a script doctor for a few years so I’m writing and trying to develop a few projects. We all know the Italian / American culture, we know the Jewish New Yorker, but the world doesn’t know the Greek / Australian culture or the Italian /Australian culture and I’m talking outside things like “Wogs out of work” etc.- yea there’s a place for that and they’re wonderful but we also need to do it in a more honest and intimate way. There are wonderful people like directors Ana Kokkinos and Nadia Tass, and Maria Mercedes that are out there doing it, I’m sure there are others, these are just the ones that came to mind and I haven’t even met all of them but I know their work. We as a culture need to get behind that movement much more than we have been. I think as artists, and especially as actors here in Melbourne we’ve lost our voice – too many actors are trying to be American and I tell them find your voice here- it needs to be told- let American tell their story and we have a responsibility to tell ours. And definitely as Greek / Australians we have to put that on the map and show the world that we don’t’ all speak with broken accents. Marty Scorsese once said to “We cast a person going through something that happen to be Italian, you guys cast a Greek person and make it about that.” I’m not going to say what film he was talking about but he made his point- it’s about the person, the human being going through the experience NOT the culture, the culture is the influence. But it’s going to take a lot of work, and sad to say but as an artistic community we don’t work together as much as we could here in Melbourne – the Jews work together, the Italians do, but we as Greeks could unite way more than we do now. We bicker amongst ourselves and we pay the price as an artistic community. It’s quite different in LA.
CW:What’s your motto in life?
Peter Kalos:Stop saying, “I wish I had done that…” Make sure at the end of the day your carve time to pursue YOUR dream- yes bills have to be paid and kids raised etc. but if you don’t do what you want – then who’s life are you living? But do it, don’t just talk about it because it takes so much more work than people think.