Just as the global coronavirus pandemic was ramping up, Canadian Nia Vardalos was dealing with a heartbreaking moment in her family.
The “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” star lost her father in March and with travel restrictions in place, she was unable to travel home to Winnipeg to see her 87-yer-old dad, Gus, whose health had been on the decline, in his final days. The writer and actress had to say her goodbyes via FaceTime with the help of a nurse in the hospital and later watched his funeral as it was livestreamed from the family’s local church.
“When it happened to my family in March, we lost our dad and we couldn’t have a funeral, we couldn’t travel. And all of a sudden it was a terrible experience for us because we couldn’t honour my dad in the way, that someone who has lived such an incredible life deserves,” she tells ET Canada via a video interview from her home in Los Angeles.
“All of a sudden we couldn’t gather and in March that was a unique story and now here we are closing in on may and there are people out there that have experienced the exact same thing. And my heart goes out to you because I know how I felt,” she continues.
Vardalos has channelled her personal heartbreak into helping other families through this global crisis, asking people to give to not-for-profits and tag their donations with #bigfatdonation and she will help suggest a legitimate organization in need.
Her famous friends Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson stepped up and donated to a program that helps the elderly in her family’s Winnipeg church while they were battling COVID-19 in Australia. Other famous friends including Michael Chiklis have given to Big Sunday, a Los Angeles-based organization that is helping to get gloves and masks to hospitals and is also preparing meals for hospital staff.
“I keep partnering with new groups, frontline foods, now I am going to pick up the food at the local restaurants and deliver it to the hospitals and that’s going to be super fun! I will disinfect the inside of my car, make homemade masks and gloves,” she says, before adding, “And of course you’re are going to laugh – I partnered with Greek yogurt!”
“They donated 3,800 cups of yogurt for frontline food trucks in New York,” she says.
With cast members of movies and shows including “The Goonies”, “Big Mouth”, “Parks And Recreation” and more all gathering for reunions and live reads via Zoom, could a “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” virtual reunion be far behind?
“We have a constant text thread of abuse that goes on with our cast,” Vardalos jokes. “I would love to say that yes, we are going to come out of this and come over to your house and bring you a mousaka.”