Nia Vardalos on My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Slow Burn, Rising Before 4 A.M., and the Very Real Merits of Windex

Besides the lump, is there a line that people quote back to you the most?

“Put some Windex on it.” I have heard even from my gynecologist.

That’s one we quote in my family. That, and, “Give me a word, any word, and I will show you how that word is Greek.” [Note: My family is not Greek.]

Yes! And, “Okay, I’ll make lamb.”

So much of it I just pulled from my family. My dad actually put Windex on everything. And “Okay, I’ll make lamb”…I was a vegetarian for 12 years and people would always try to get me to eat meat and so I just made the husband character a vegetarian because I thought it would be good conflict.

In terms of personally relating…I was recently shocked to realize that I’m, like, basically the age Toula is in the first movie! And not married or anything.

Thirty being the expiration date is truly cultural. In Muslim families, in Indian families, in Greek and Italian families, you have to get married! And that was a pressure that sometimes can lead people to make a very bad decision. In the second movie I tried very hard to send the message of, You don’t have to get married. In the third movie I make it so that we respect choice.

I have encountered a lifetime of women, whom I love, and when I say, “What do you do?” often the woman will say, “Oh, I’m just a stay-at-home mom,” like it’s not the greatest thing you can do with your life. I want to celebrate us all. You work, I work, [and also] that woman who is a stay-at-home mom is valuable. I’m a firm believer in choice. I adopted my child. It’s your right to have a child; it’s your right to have your choice.

I feel like a big theme of the whole series is the unexplored path, and not just doing what the generation before you did, in such a loving way. Toula never rejects her heritage, but she says, I want a different way.

“I want something different” is not necessarily the rejection of traditions. You do what is right for you and I’ll do what is right for me.

This third movie was shot in Greece. Did you find working abroad to be significantly different?

To film in Greece was an absolute coup, because financiers are always saying, Hey, there’s a better tax credit in Croatia.

Or, “Can’t you make Toronto look like Greece?”

I said, Jesus, no, we have to film in Greece, the whole movie is about the family’s return to Greece. So that was a yearlong fight. And then the most amazing thing happened. The minister of film—that is a title that can only be created in Greece—put through a tax credit and all of a sudden we were told if I could film the entire movie in Greece, I could get a 40% tax credit. You will think you’re seeing Chicago, but it’s Greece. We made Athens airport look like O’Hare. An alleyway in Athens is the Zorba’s alleyway.

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