Meet Joanna Kalafatis: New Greek star of hit Netflix series ‘Maestro in Blue’

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By Despina Karpathiou

At first glance, Joanna Kalafatis is a beautiful Greek woman with voluminous hair. However, as the saying goes, there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

Joanna is the newest Greek star of the successful Netflix series ‘Maestro in Blue’ and is an avid traveller with a flair for writing.

The Greek Herald was fortunate to sit down with Joanna for a candid chat about her journey.

Tell us about yourself and where you were born?

I was born in New York City to Greek parents, but we moved back to Greece when I was still a baby so my first memories are from my hometown of Nea Makri, Greece. A few years later, my family and I moved back to New York, though we kept my childhood home in Greece and travelled back and forth constantly, spending entire summers there, and then after I graduated college with a B.A. in Economics, I moved out to Los Angeles to pursue acting. I had always been artistically inclined – I grew up performing in theatre productions, playing piano, singing, and doing ballet – but at 17 I decided to study something “practical” in college. During my junior year abroad, I got into a major car accident, and it made me reconsider this decision. That was part of the reason I decided to change course and move to LA to study acting.

Take us through your childhood in Greece

I spent relatively few years of my childhood in Greece, about seven in total, but considering that since then I’ve managed to spend 2-3 months a year in the country, and even more time than that in the last few years that I’ve been working here, I haven’t lost my language or my friends in Greece.

My hometown was idyllic, at least in my eyes. My house was right at the edge of the woods and a couple of minutes from the beach. It was a wonderful place to be a kid, in a way that I feel most kids don’t get to experience anymore these days… jumping in the sea from May 1 to the end of October, riding bikes around, exploring the forest. Best of all, while it very much felt like a small-town community in the countryside, a nice little cocoon of peace and nature, we were also just over a half-hour drive from Athens, so in a way, it was the best of both worlds. Access to all the facilities and diversions of a big city, while living in a smaller, more tight-knit community by the sea.

While I was in Greece, I attended Campion for elementary school, so I learned English and Greek simultaneously. Though I did have to get rid of my quasi-English accent when I eventually moved to the States.

How did you get into acting and films? 

My very first acting role was as Hope in a 3rd-grade play called Hope to the Rescue at Campion. I know, very prestigious and professional. It’s one of the few things I vividly remember from early childhood – the commitment I felt to learning my lines and doing my best. The night of the performance I had a 40 degree Celsius fever and nausea, and I still went on. I think in that moment I realised this is something I really loved. Then when I got older, I went to a very artistic high school, which had productions of musicals, plays, and even operas every year. I loved the sense of play, the community I felt while putting on a show, and the idea of transporting people, encompassing both ourselves and the audience, even for just a couple of hours. 

As for my love of TV and films… when we first got to New York, it took a while to get settled into this new place. And we changed neighbourhoods a couple of times while living there. As an only child who hadn’t yet found a friend group, it was a bit of a lonely experience sometimes. Movies and TV gave me a sense of comfort, a connection to these beautiful human stories, and I remember deeply admiring the people who managed to make such magic. They made me forget about my initial homesickness and isolation for a bit. 

Congratulations on your casting in Maestro in Blue! When did you find out and how did you react?

Thank you! I found out a few months before filming started for the second season, and I was… completely shocked, to be honest. I remember speaking with Christopher and feeling so stunned and grateful. I think it’s the first show I’ve been cast in that I had already seen and loved before ever getting near an audition for it. That made it pretty exciting, that I’d get to work with the actors portraying these characters I had already become invested in while watching. And, of course, the fact that Maestro in Blue was the first Greek series ever to get on Netflix made it even more of an honour to be cast in the production.

What’s your character in Maestro in Blue? 

I can’t say much about her yet, as we’ve just seen the beginning of her storyline thus far. My character appears on the island as a reporter with an international flair, but it’s quickly made obvious that she’s perhaps more connected with the issues facing the main characters than she appears to be at first. 

What else can tell us about her? How did you prepare to go into character?

I don’t want to give any spoilers! It will be an interesting series of episodes for people to watch and I can’t wait for people to find out what happens next. But part of my preparation involved keeping the progression of my storyline in mind from the beginning, and being very clear on my goals and actual relationships to the main characters.

When you’re given a character who may be involved in morally questionable situations like bribery and being paid off – that’s not a spoiler as the second episode has already aired! – the challenge as an actor is that you can’t judge those actions, as most people generally don’t do so in real life.

We tend not to think of ourselves as bad people no matter what we do; we generally believe our actions are justified, as are our goals. So with respect to that, the other part of my preparation was finding the reasoning my character used, and the life circumstances that would make her justify her actions to herself. These are things that you may not even get from the script explicitly, but they’re important to have in your head as you perform if you want to create a three-dimensional person.

Tell us about your travel blog! How did you get the travel bug? What was your first trip?

My travel blog is called LosetheMap.com, and it was a passion project of mine that turned into a combination of writing portfolio/income-earning side gig. I always did freelance writing jobs for extra money, and one day I realised I wasn’t really writing in my own voice and style, nor about the things I wanted to write about, as I was submitting articles for other publications and following their guidelines. So I started the travel blog as a creative tool for myself, and eventually, it gained some recognition.

My family always loved to travel whenever we could, but I think I really fell in love with traveling during my study abroad trip. It was a special program that consisted of two months in Brazil, two months in South Africa, and two months in Vietnam with homestay families. In addition to taking classes, we met with local community leaders and NGOs, urban planners, and a whole host of other people working to improve their cities. At the time, my subspecialty was economic development, so this program greatly interested me. The experience of getting such an in-depth glimpse at the places we visited, both through the eyes of our homestay families, and through looking at the challenges of a country in addition to its beauty and top destinations, really changed me and the way I wanted to travel and understand the world.

What are your goals and dreams?

Wow, too many to count honestly. My top three are, I want to host my own travel show, finish writing my non-fiction travel book, and continue to perform in meaningful films and series. I am actually working on all of these goals right now, but I’ve learned that patience is key.

You can follow Joanna here:

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