Profiles and Interviews With Interesting New Yorkers

Despina Mirou: America’s Favorite Comedic Actress

By Nick Christophers

Nick: You have done everything from acting for TV, film, stage and stand-up. Which one is your favorite medium to work with?

Despina:

I’m a theatre actress. I began my career in classical theatre, and I believe the stage is a strong basis and non-stop exercise for any actor; it keeps their talent warm. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of appearing in great plays such as The Odd Couple by Neil Simon, Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov, Oresteia by Aeschylus and Salome by Oscar Wilde. I feel blessed for having been given the opportunity to take on roles ranging from classical dramatic plays to ancient comedies, and all from such phenomenal writers. It is this great love of the stage that has made me appreciate standup so much. Perhaps standup is even more difficult, however, seeing as in that medium you are alone on the stage and are solely responsible for the performance, as both performer and writer. I’m addicted to the stage and that is why I’ve done so many standup shows. After the stage, I prefer cinema. I feel fortunate that I have been able to collaborate with magnificent directors in that medium. I’ve done seven films in the US this year. 

Nick: How did stand-up comedy become your current passion?

Despina:

I was taking acting classes with John Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio in New York. I first appeared at the New York Comedy Club then, where I did an impression of Lucille Ball. The crowd was so enthusiastic and responsive that I was in a state of ecstasy. It was an entirely new experience for me as stand-up comedy in Greece is relatively new. From then on, I began appearing in Los Angeles. The more I do it, the more I want to continue it, to the point that it has become a nightly joy for me. And when I’m not on the stage, I go to see other comics, to learn from them, to analyze techniques, varying styles and delivery methods. In the past year I’ve done many impersonations and that’s a new endeavor for me, not to mention an exciting one. I’m a workaholic, and all of this experience, performing every night, is like being at a comedy school. I think a comedic actor who is able to do standup is more well versed in their field. 

Nick: The ten characters your play like Melania Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Sofia Vergara, Ozzy Osbourne, Judge Judy, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Eminem, Penelope Cruz, Arianna Huffington. Why these specific ones?

Despina:

I began doing Kim Kardashian in the stand-up circuit and it was a great success. Later, at some point, I did Judge Judy, whom I actually had only just discovered that morning! That same day, I went out to get her wig, and by that evening I was playing her at the club. She was received warmly by the crowd. I also did Ozzy on the live circuit at the same time, doing a rendition of “Paranoid”, something incredibly exciting for me. Afterwards, Lady Gaga came about as an impersonation during Oscar season, and the audience was hysterical. All the other characters were requests by my manager for the impersonation video. This video was shot in a day and a half, which included my writing, staging, directing and costume-designing it. The Ozzy and Kardashian impersonations were also featured as part of my emceeing the Pink Floyd concert “Beyond The Wall” with great success.

Nick: Winning the award “Best Stand Up comedy actress” 0n July 2019, the Comedy Union must have been a great feeling. How did that come about?

Despina:

These comedian-specific award ceremonies are annual. I should point out that, since I won last year as well for “Audience Favorite Stand-Up”, I was surprised to win for a second time! It was a magical night. A tremendous pleasure for me. I got on the stage and the crowd began screaming, and I was so moved, I could barely speak. An equally great honor was being recognized and awarded as a writer, seeing as my monologues are my own. I have my own audience now, who love me and I in turn love to surprise them! This award was hence particularly important to me because it was the audience who gave it to me. For me, it was a reward and recognition of both my comedic talents and the crowd’s affection. My mission is to spread laughter.

Nick: It must have been great to work with such talent like with Michael Madsen, Faye Dunaway and Daryl Hannah on the project “American Connection”?

Despina:

It’s a great honor to have worked with these legendary actors in the drama film American Connection by Jeff Espanol. I find this film to be the best dramatic role I’ve had in an American production. I’m on screen next to the living legend that is Faye Dunaway, as well as sharing scenes with the amazing Daryl Hannah. I play the role of a nun-spy (also named Despina, haha!), and it’s one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done, the style of which reminds me of Tarantino. Without wanting to give too much away, in a crucial scene in the film, Michael Madsen and Robert Miano’s characters attempt to use a weapon on me. However, an on-set malfunction made Madsen, an actor of great experience, improvise and pull a knife on me! When we went to do another take, Jeff Espanol was so impressed with the raw, improvised result that he decided against it.

Nick: What was it like receiving the award from the White House?

Despina:

In 2012, I had the honor of receiving the “Excellence in Innovations ” award at the White House in Washington D.C from the U.S Congress for my speech about “The Historical Importance of Women in Ancient Times and Modern Women of Our Times”, regarding women that had contributed to humanity in different fields such as science (Hypatia, Maria Montessori) literature (Sapho, Anne Frank) activism (Rosa Parks), politics and many more. I had the privilege of meeting so many magnanimous personalities and highly influential figures – politicians, artists, journalists, and more – from all around the world. It also happened to be my first trip ever to the US. And on that first trip, I not only got to see these beautiful landmarks firsthand, but deliver a speech there! 

Nick: It must have been great working with Lanie Kazan and Renee Taylor, two A-list actresses.

Despina:

It was an unbelievable collaboration, one which took place in a highly enjoyable and inspiring atmosphere, not to mention the amount of laughter we all shared during filming! I had an incredible time, and furthermore learned so much about comedy by watching superb actors like Renee Taylor (The Nanny), Joseph Boglona (My Favorite Year) and Lainie Kazan (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), each playing their roles with such mastery. My character is Susan Shulman, a Hasidic Jewish girl that follows the lead character with a hilarious gossip-driven intent. 

Nick: Tell us about this Hollywood Star Calendar you’re preparing.

Despina:

I received a proposal from a large American publisher to dress up as Hollywood’s 12 biggest stars in history, for an exclusive “Hollywood Star Calendar ” which will be released in 2020, and all of this is with the collaboration of a renowned photographer! So far, we have shot set pieces for Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor. It demands long hours of photography sessions, and the team that is executing it with us, for instance, in the areas of makeup and costume design, are excellent artists in Hollywood. A European publisher is now also on board and the calendar is to be published in different languages for the international market. 

Nick: Films like “The Light touch “and “Nurses Do It better” when are they due to be released?

Despina:

They’re both amazing comedies. In the film The Light TouchI portray the crazy policewoman Gina alongside the British actor Duncan Skinner and American actress Antonia Bogdanovich. The film reminds me of the original The Pink Panther and even my character is reminiscent of Peter Seller’s Clouseau. Post-production was just completed and the film will be in the festival circuit this year. Nurses Do it Betteris a comedy about the healthcare system by Stephan Pacheco. My character is Nurse Amber, the inappropriately hedonistic health care professional. This film is also in the final editing stages and will be hitting festivals this year, too. 

Nick: What is next for Despina Mirou?

Despina:

I participated in several amazing TV series, my most recent one being Netflix’s On My Block, which was very amusing for me, and I got to meet a whole new young generation of strong comics! From April 2019, I started to do emceeing for Pink Floyd “Beyond The Wall” concerts of Think expo, which featured the incredible music of Pink Floyd, plus special effect lasers which made it an impressive life experience! It’s the best thing that happened to me in 2019. At the same time, I finished many films this year, and I booked some upcoming roles without an audition due to the directors seeing me on stage! That was phenomenal. I finished another drama film with Michael Musto and several Japanese actors named Japanese Borsch, directed by Eric Rivas. In that film, I play a femme fatale fantasy woman, who lives inside the mind of the hero! A very interesting role! At the end, I start shooting for the film Gleichschaltung,a war drama with the famous Chinese actress Bai Ling, directed by Patrick Kilpatrick. Another comedy film is also near completion, The Proposal, in which I play Athena. Also, I’m continuing my stand-up comedy shows at the Laugh Factory and other comedy clubs in the US. And, as mentioned, I’m eagerly anticipating the release of the films The Light TouchTango Shalom, Nurses Do It Better and The American Connectionall near completion and set for release in the coming year. 

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