Actor Chris Diamantopoulos is ending the year with a bang. His latest action-packed comedy movie, “Red Notice,” is on track to be Netflix’s most popular movie and scoring the streaming service’s biggest opening weekend ever.
He crushed his role as the villain, playing alongside household names such as Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot. The Canadian-Greek actor has been in the industry for quite a while now and he channels his talents and versatility through theater productions, Broadway shows, films and TV. He even lends his voice for various animated characters, one of which is none other than Mickey Mouse.
DAMAN: Hi, Chris, awesome to have you with us. How are you these days?
Chris Diamantopoulos: Thank you so much for asking. And it’s awesome for me to be here. I’m great. The kids are healthy. Everything seems to be going very, very well. Actually, I feel pretty peaceful and excited for what the future may hold.
DAMAN: Congratulations on the success of “Red Notice.” How do you feel now that it’s finally out?
Chris Diamantopoulos: I feel elated now that the movie’s out. I had such a great time making the movie and there’s always that feeling of trepidation just before it comes out. But the responses I’ve been getting from my friends and family have been so warm, that I feel so excited for the rest of the world to see it.
DAMAN: Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us a little bit about your character, Sotto Voce?
Chris Diamantopoulos: So, Sotto Voce is a villain in the Bond-ian sense and there are some beautiful tropes that have been sort of combined to create this villain. He is from a quasi-Baltic, European background. His backstory is fascinating, he was the son of an international arms dealer who forbade him from ever going into his study where he held his weapons. When one day in a rage of a heated incident my character accidently killed his father, the rest of the crime lords decided to make me the leader and thus my reign of crime began. And my new moniker father had crushed my windpipes in that little heated melee and now I’ve got this great sort of Bond-ian voice.
DAMAN: Is Sotto Voce something different than what you used to play? What did you enjoy most about playing this particular character?
Chris Diamantopoulos: I love every character that I get to play. And Sotto Voce is definitely very different than what I’m used to playing. Not only the scale of the movie that he’s in, but also the storyline. This being an action comedy really allowed me to push into some character traits that are new to me. And it was a real blast because I had really enjoyed big broad villains from the ’30s, ’40s, ’80s and ’90s. I’ve always been a big fan of actors who play villains who aren’t afraid to go for it.
DAMAN: Tell us about the casting process for “Red Notice”…
Chris Diamantopoulos: It was a prototypical casting process. I received a script and an opportunity to audition, I put myself on tape. I will say that the character was originally written as South American, but I didn’t feel comfortable playing South American because there are so many really wonderful South American actors out there. So, I changed the character to Greek to sort of give me a chance to find a way and that felt organic because I speak fluent Greek. And ultimately, we decided to sort of make him of unknown European origin.
DAMAN: You also do voice acting for a lot of characters, including Mickey Mouse. Can you go back a bit and tell us how you first discovered voice acting? And what was your first professional job as a voice actor?
Chris Diamantopoulos: I started voice acting when I was on Broadway back in the late ’90s. I was doing “Les Miserables” at the time. One of my fellow actors, Nick Wyman, would play poker in between shows on the matinee days, and I would entertain the guys at the table with various voices. I sort of just did it as a lark, but Nick challenged me to actually turn it into something. And he introduced me to his voiceover agent who took me under his wing. Then I did a lot of broadcast voiceover work in New York City. When I left Broadway and moved my stage work behind, but also that broadcast voiceover work because at the time, they weren’t really casting those type of jobs out of Los Angeles. So, I found myself without any work. And it was by virtue of some very kind and benevolent casting directors that I first started getting into animation work, which was mostly out of Los Angeles. My first job was for “American Dad,” and it was casting director Linda Lamontagne who has been a real champion of mine from the beginning of my career. She gave me my first chance and continues to be very generous with the opportunities that she sends my way.
DAMAN: And is there a dream voice character on your bucket list? Like your dream voice project?
Chris Diamantopoulos: That’s a great question. That’s a very, very good question. I’m the voice of Mickey Mouse but I really loved “Looney Tunes” growing up. I would love to somehow be a part of “Looney Tunes”—I’d love to do either Bugs or Daffy or someone in that universe because of how much they meant to me growing up.
DAMAN: Looking back, what was your all-time favorite role?
Chris Diamantopoulos: It’s really hard to define that. I will say that a pivotal role for me was a small movie that really wasn’t sort of meant to do much. It was an NBC movie of the week that was made for just a couple of hundred thousand dollars. It was buried opposite the NCAA championship finals so I don’t think anyone even saw it. It was called “Behind The Camera, The Unauthorized Story of Mork and Mindy.” I’m not even sure if you can find it anywhere to see it. What it did for me, specifically, and the reason it holds a very, very important place in my heart is, number one: It allowed me to pay homage to one of my great heroes, Robin Williams. And two: It gave me the courage to pursue a real career as a character actor when really there was no reason for me to think that that could ever happen at that time in my career. It continues to be a benchmark for me in terms of what I look for in a role and how I hope to be allowed the opportunity to embody a role and to transform myself into a character.
DAMAN: What about voiceover? What’s your favorite role?
Chris Diamantopoulos: It has to be Mickey Mouse. I wear that like a badge of honor. It’s one of the greatest joys of my life to not only bring Mickey to life in the way that Walt did, but also to be able to take him into directions that audiences hadn’t seen before. And certainly, with the help of Paul Ruddish, who was the mastermind behind these new Mickeys and Christopher Willis, who is the Emmy award winning composer who has allowed me the opportunities to sing as Mickey Mouse. Singing is one of my great joys and I have to say there’s nothing as exhilarating as singing as Mickey Mouse.
DAMAN: You’re also involved in Netflix’s upcoming series “True Story.” Tell us a bit about Savvas, your character in that one…
Chris Diamantopoulos: It was a real departure for me to play a very real, grounded and brutal villain. Savvas is the heavy of a smalltime Greek mob family in Philadelphia. And he really doesn’t say much and really kind of only comes into play when it’s time for him to horribly hurt somebody. I loved working with Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes. It was like going to a masterclass every day. And Eric Newman has been someone that’s long been on my radar. His work in “Narcos” and so many other series has been something that attracted me to him and I had hoped that I would have an opportunity to work with him. It was great to play a character that was so still. And, you know, typically I can be pretty verbose, and I usually get cast to play characters that have a lot to say. It was great to say less and do more with less words.
DAMAN: Do you enjoy being a villain more than the good guy?
Chris Diamantopoulos: I love every role that I get to play. Being a villain certainly has a great level of freedom and an opportunity to step outside of myself. I’m a father of three, so there’s not much villainy in my life. I love playing a villain. I think I’d also really love to play a prototypical leading man. It’s been a minute since I’ve done something like that. I think that all of the work that I’ve done, especially recently, could inform maybe a different take on a leading man.
DAMAN: In your opinion, what is the easiest and hardest part of character building when starting on a new role?
Chris Diamantopoulos: I think, for me, it always sort of starts with what does the character sound like and what does the character look like? I know that that seems pretty on the surface, but if I can figure out how this character’s voice sounds in my head and what his body feels like in my body, then I can take the next steps and decide if there’s anything I can draw from my personal experience that would allow me any more insight. Or if I have to do the very thing that children grow up doing without any instruction or tutelage—which is to pretend. Sometimes pretending is the easiest and most fun way into a character.
DAMAN: Other than “Red Notice” and “True Story” you’re also involved in the panel of “Unicorn Hunters.” Tell us a bit about the show and how did you get involved in that project…
Chris Diamantopoulos: I’ve always been a huge fan of “Shark Tank.” When “Unicorn Hunters” approached me, by virtue of the fact that my character from “Silicon Valley,” Russ Hanaman, has become quite popular within that startup VC world, I jumped at the opportunity to help panelists that are actually really trying to create beautiful, life changing, world- changing products. Some of the people that we had the pleasure of meeting are creating things that are saving lives around the world. It was also a real honor to be on the panel with some of these great titans of industry, including Steve Wozniak. It was a different opportunity for me, but definitely a fun one.
DAMAN: What was the most amazing or interesting invention you discovered on “Unicorn Hunters”?
Chris Diamantopoulos: There was a mobile breast exam particularly for countries that don’t have access to mammograms that looked absolutely fascinating. This young fellow genius has already saved hundreds of thousands of lives with this device and I just thought it was a brilliant idea.
DAMAN: Without these ongoing projects you’re involved in, how do you manage your time and find the time to rest and start another busy day?
Chris Diamantopoulos: That’s a great question. We keep hearing about how time is the most valuable commodity and time is of the essence and time is fleeting. I don’t really feel that way. I think there’s plenty of time in the day for all of it, it’s just a matter of prioritizing. And it begins and ends with my family. If I can make sure that I’m seeing them or that I know that they are well intended to, then the very next thing for me is my work, which I love more than anything in the world. So, it’s really just a matter of finding the balance. There are days or weeks where I cannot be with my family by virtue of work. And there are days or weeks where I am not working and so I have nothing but time with my family. It’s just a matter of recognizing that while I can’t control what comes when, I can be in the moment of what it is when it comes.
DAMAN: Do you have any exciting projects in 2022 that you can share with us?
Chris Diamantopoulos: There are a few things in the hopper right now, certainly within the animated space. There’s a great project that I’m involved with on AMC called “Pantheon,” where I play—you guessed it—a villain, but this is quite different. He’s a businessman/scientist. I think that the way that they’ve crafted this show is really quite unique. It’s an adult drama in animated form. I can’t wait for people to see it. I’m also really excited to be on the second season of “Made For Love,” HBO Max’s incredibly unique dystopian, subversive comedy about a company like Google, taking their aspirations to the nth degree. I play a funny FBI agent in that. I’m excited to be working on “Daisy Jones” and “The Six.” It’s a book that I thought was just tremendous and I’ve long been an admirer of Reese Witherspoon, and certainly what she does as a producer, so being in that family is a real treat for me. But there are a few other things coming down the pipeline that hopefully we can check in again and I’ll keep you posted.
PHOTOGRAPHY MITCHELL NGUYEN McCORMACK
STYLING KIMBERLY GOODNIGHT
PHOTO ASSISTANT IAN PHILLIPS
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