When The Durrells is filming in Corfu, you might expect it would be star Keeley Hawes (Louisa Durrell) or Hollywood icon Leslie Caron (Countess Mavrodaki) at the centre of any autograph scrum.
But though the ITV drama is hugely popular on the Greek Island, the locals only have eyes for one man: Alexis Georgoulis.
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The supporting actor, who plays the Durrells’ friend Spiros Hakaiopoulos, is a massive star in his home country and a major local celebrity. Speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival, Sally Woodward Gentle explained: “He’s a massive star in Greece. He’s huge, it’s just like, he can’t go anywhere. He’s a huge star.”
While everyone else is standing around unrecognised, she said, Georgoulis “shuts bars, he goes behind the bar, the bar’s open for everybody. Free drinks all round!”
(Hawes quickly added: “Not that we go to many bars! We’ve got work to do.”)
Georgoulis has starred in many Greek films and TV shows, including the hugely successful sitcom Eisai to tairi mou which made him a household name.
Bizarrely, back in the 80s when Gerald Durrell’s trilogy of novels was first adapted for TV, the part of Spiros was played by Brian Blessed with a Greek accent (yes, really).
And when it was adapted again for 2005 TV movie My Family and Other Animals, British Iranian actor Omid Djalili stepped into the role.
This time, producers were determined to actually cast Greek actors as Greek characters.
“It’s very old-fashioned not to,” Woodward Gentle told the audience. “And there are fantastic local actors, it felt quite bizarre to do a British Greek. So it was a no brainer.”