An in-depth conversation with Elena Kampouris, the incredibly talented and charming star of the new Facebook Watch / Blumhouse series “Sacred Lies”
I knew from the moment she answered the phone that this interview with Elena Kampouris, star of the new Facebook Watch series “Sacred Lies“, was going to be incredible.
Elena has an enthusiasm that is unparalleled, and it’s clear that she legitimately loves her job. And she should, because with the success of her new show, plus her roles in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Before I Fall already in her back pocket, Elena is about to become a huge household name. Born in New York in 1997, this girl knows success, and she’s not even 21 yet.
We discussed “Sacred Lies”, women in film, her love of horror films, her respect and knowledge of the Chinese culture, and even her bulldog, Petunia.
INTERVIEW WITH ELENA KAMPOURIS
Tiffany Blem: I just wanted to tell you that I am caught up on the show through episode eight, and it’s just so fantastic.
Elena Kampouris: Episode 8! Oh my gosh!
TB: So I am super excited to get to do this, this is really amazing to get to talk to you.
EK: Oh, that’s so sweet of you, and I’m so happy that you saw it. So you saw through eight? What was your favorite aspect of it? What’s something that stuck out to you? I’m so curious because nobody else has gotten to see it. What did you respond to the most?
TB: I love how intense it is, and I love how they showed when your hands were cut off. It was so emotional, and I love your emotional range. One thing that I really noted, you gave the most genuine smile for the first time in the serious when you threw your prosthetic hands away. And that really stood out to me. When Angel walked up to you at the drinking fountain outside, and you gave her this smile, it was the most genuine scene in the show up to that point.
EK: Ah! You know what my favorite scene was — and my favorite scene to shoot with co-star Kiana, who plays Angel? Our favorite scene was the bleep scene at the end of episode seven, when we’re screaming an expletive. Did you see that part?
TB: I did! I actually watched it for the second time last night, and what I liked is the different variations of the bleep — so you could tell that there was more than one person participating.
EK: Yeah! That was actually done on purpose. They wanted that.
The whole thing was it was sending a message about how these girls all had trauma, but they’re empowered by it, and they can band together and unify. And even though there’s no answer to fixing it or healing them 100%, it’s nice that they can cathartically let it out in a moment of, “Ugh!” Also, it’s a commentary with the bleep because they could never air the curse word, and it’s a commentary on when girls were censored in our speech.
It was cathartic, and it’s something that you don’t ever shoot a scene like that. It was such a unique experience to have achieved something like that, and also to get to scream at the top of your lungs. And you’ll notice in some later scenes that my voice is kind of scratchy. That is because of that scene.
TB: I wanted to ask you, what aspects of Minnow’s character were intriguing to you? What made this a character you wanted to play?
EK: Oh my gosh, everything about her. She’s a character I had never seen before — other than the fact she’s strong, she’s smart, she’s curious, she’s a little bit dangerous and violent. She’s flawed, but she’s also a little bit admirable. Also, the intriguing aspect is how she’s going into this new world. I was kind of looking at it like, “Ok, how can I speak Minnow’s language?” Because outside of the cult, the language probably sounds a bit different.
I’m fascinated by language. I know sign language, I speak Mandarin. So I thought, ok, she’s probably hearing sarcasm differently. She’s probably not used to that verbal fuse, that social fuse. The beginning has got be a perpetual headache, but she learns very quickly. That was really interesting just to play with that.
TB: She is a great character and definitely not something you see very often. I like a strong, female characters, so I’m really glad that this is something that is being made available to everyone.
EK: Yeah! And that fact that we’re doing an amputee heroine…I don’t think that’s something we’ve ever seen before. That’s so important.
TB: The role of Minnow seems that it would also be emotionally exhausting. How did you prepare for something so intense?
EK: You know, with every role I play, I just forget it all and live it, and experience it. To be honest, I never knew what capillaries were until I did the hand chopping scene, and the next day I had a hundred little red dots surrounding my eyes because the capillaries burst from the loud scream. I looked like I had chicken pox. They went away the next day, but it takes a toll on you physically, and you don’t even realize it.
But you know, it’s so much fun, and that excites me, that’s the stuff you crave. So I just wanted to do it. And, ah, what an incredible opportunity!
TB: That was a great scene with so much emotion. Just the look on his face and your face…that was amazing. And I also read that you worked with a woman, a dancer, who had lost her hand around the age of your character. I read she worked with you on being pretty accurate about it. Was it hard to not be able to use your hands in the show? Was it difficult to get around, not being able to do what you’re used to since you’re not supposed to have hands?
EK: What’s so funny, Kristie Sita is her name, she deserves all of the credit. I want to be sure you get her name, Kristie Sita. She’s a dancer. She’s incredible because she did lose her hand around this age. She took something that happened to her, something tragic, and made it into her strength. She has a way of inspiring people.
She helped me three weeks ahead of shooting. We worked together through every single scene discussing how to deal with it physically, but also psychologically. She helped me convey what my character was going through by channeling what Kristie had gone through on her personal journey. And then, she was there every day of shooting, watching the monitor for any little thing that didn’t look right or natural — making sure we were true to the character’s emotional journey.
She was so crucial to the entire thing and we bonded on and off set. She made all of this. I owe it all to her for being there, supporting me, and opening up so much. Because that’s a lot of personal stuff, you know, and nothing was off limits. She let me ask her any question.
Is it hard to not have your hands? Oh my gosh, 110%. You take it for granted. I have to say, it’s so frustrating when your hands are tied up. They were wrapped up all of the time or gloved up, so I couldn’t scratch my face, or adjust my clothes, or even drink from a water bottle. Luckily, we had such a kind and caring crew and cast members that would help me. It was hard to even to go to the bathroom. It makes you sweat, it makes you feel claustrophobic not having your hands.
It’s a really weird feeling, and it’s a mental challenge we don’t ever think about it. But when you deal with it, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t imagine what it’s like living with this every day.” I was just experiencing it for the hours that we were shooting on set. I couldn’t take them off because it would take a lot of time. But can you imagine having to learn to work with it? It makes you appreciate your hands, appreciate how strong people like Kristie are. She’s out there going through that and overcoming it.
TB: I love that attention to detail.
EK: Yeah, it was good to use that frustration too. If you’re frustrated, it only helps the character.
TB: I noticed that you’ve been working almost non-stop since you started back in 2012. What do you like to do on your down time? What are some your hobbies?
EK: Oh my gosh. Well, first of all, I like to spend quality TLC time with my mini bulldog, Petunia. I love bulldogs. I like to spend time with her, and I like to study. I keep up my studies. I think that’s super important. I like to read. I especially love fostering my love for Chinese culture. I speak Mandarin, so I’m very in tune with the community here. I go to the Chinese school every Sunday. I do poetry lessons.
I have a lot of Chinese friends, so I love to sing songs with them. I love to touch base with that whenever I’m home. And also when I’m out. We shot in Vancouver, and there’s a large Chinese community there. It’s a blast to get to connect with people. Also, I like to learn sign language through song. I like to keep myself busy with all of that whenever I’ve got any free time.
TB: Oh, that is super cool! And very impressive.
EK: I have a Chinese ballet dance teacher, because I also do Chinese ballet, and she has a noodle shop. I would always go this noodle shop, and she has a lot of deaf people who would come to eat. I sing these Chinese songs, and I wanted them to be able to understand them. So that’s kind of what started it. It’s beautiful, and really fun to learn.
TB: You mentioned a little bit earlier about having a great crew helping you out. And I noted that it’s a very strong female cast and crew, and a very female-centered production. What was it like to be a part of a project with so many women in such prominent roles?
EK: Oh, my gosh, it was like a dream come true. I had never worked on a project where there’s a female stunt coordinator. Maya Aro, she’s Lara Croft, a female Indiana Jones. She is incredible. I was like wow! This is the first time we had a cinematographer. We had a woman in every single department!
Raelle (Tucker) made sure we had a female presence on this set, especially since we’re telling this story that’s all about female empowerment.
It was so special, and every single person was a treasure to work with. I find, a lot of the time on projects, that I keep to the crew more than the cast — even though, on this one, the cast is so special. The crew members made this thing up, and they don’t get enough credit that they deserve.
It’s so wonderful. It’s so nomadic because you go to all of these different locations, and you meet all these people from different walks of life. That’s something that enriches you, to get to connect with them and learn about where they come from. It’s just eye-opening and makes this experience all the more, you know, special.
TB: I definitely noticed there were female writers and female directors. It was created by a female, written by a female, and the whole cast is almost entirely female. That is so important to me.
EK: Yeah! They were so open-minded and wanted to make sure everybody was included, and they were open to hearing everybody’s input. It was such a lovely environment on set. It was a dream, every single day.
TB: Who is someone you would like to play opposite of? Who is your dream?
EK: Oh, my gosh! Who do I want to play opposite of? There are so many people! I love every single genre…comedy, horror. It would be fun to do some comedic work with some comedians. I don’t know off the top of my head. Who is someone you like?
TB: That I like? Um…I’m a big horror fan. I just met Robert Englund, and that was like a dream come true. That’s what I’m aiming for, the big horror icons.
EK: Oh my. And what’s so cool is, this is Blumhouse. They’re like all horror, so to have them heading this show with Facebook is so cool because I’m a horror fanatic as well. Haha. I love zombie movies, and all that crazy stuff. I’m always looking for new ones to watch.
TB: Speaking of horror, I wanted to know what your favorite scary movie is?
EK: Oh, my gosh! Well, I need to know what yours is! But, again, I love zombie movies. 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are both really scary.
There was one really scary one. I’m not sure the name. It was Austrian or something, and it was so disturbing. The mom had plastic surgery, and she comes back with her face all wrapped up. She has two twin boys. They don’t think it’s their mom because she acts really different, and there’s this huge twist. Oh my gosh, I’ve never been so disturbed in my life! (Editor’s note: The film Elena is referencing is Goodnight Mommy.)
And the other day I watched Train to Busan, the Korean zombie film. I loved it because it was very scary. It gave you everything you want in a horror movie, but it was also emotional. I found myself crying at the end. My gosh, it packs a punch. What about you?
TB: My favorite is Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original one.
EK: I just love horror movies. It’s always fun to meet fellow horror fans and discuss. And you guys sound really fun. I wish we could meet in person!
TB: Thank you so much! You are awesome on the show, and I can’t wait to see more from you.
EK: Thank you! Make sure you spread the word on the show and get people to follow it!