By Elizabeth Carbé
Santa Clarita, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/12/17 – What is the special quality that makes one actor more convincing than another? We have all seen performances where an actor just has that extra “something” that pulls us into the character and fully engages us in their performance. From starring roles to bit parts, we find these actors who draw us in. Is it that one actor has studied their craft more than another, or has had a better teacher? Perhaps it is that one has lived or suffered more. Maybe it is a combination of all these factors. An actor, like any artist, brings the sum of their experiences to bear when they are creating. The deeper the well, the more the actor has to draw upon. The more life experience, often the more complex the art.
It is a depth to the character that these actors bring to their performances that makes us believe them. That extra quality invites the viewer in and doesn’t leave him or her simply observing, but draws us in to participate.
I was covering a charity event in Beverly Hills called “Let the Animals Live”. The guests ranged from animal advocates, vegan fashion designers, actors and professionals from all walks of life. I found myself in a small group that was speaking with Dr. Nathan Newman, who is innovating cutting-edge stem cell technologies. We were all very captivated by the conversation as this technology is now allowing people to see and walk again among many other life improvements. For people whose conditions would have previously been hopeless, this new science gives them more than hope – it can possibly give them stunning results. He was explaining the science of it all – pretty enthralling stuff. When he started talking about how stem cell therapy could help with arthritis in the knees and other joints, the actress Sofia Milos, who was part of our group, inquired about some issues her mother was having and asked if this could be of help to her.
After they spoke for a while, she and I started a conversation. She was friendly – I immediately noticed that she was very present. It’s easy to get distracted at these events, but she was focused. We spoke at length on a variety of topics. She was funny, and we easily moved from one topic to the next. Her lack of self-involvement with our conversation and her earlier discussion with the doctor caught my attention. I thought, there are definitely Hollywood movers and shakers here. She could be chatting with them, and that could be more beneficial to her career, but she was focused on our conversation.
I went home and did some research on Sofia. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised by what I found. Sofia Milos graduated with her degree in business and economics from a school in Switzerland. She spoke French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, German and English by the time she was nineteen. She had won several beauty contests in her early teens. She took the money she won in these contests and put herself through business school. This was impressive! I found out that she was Greek and Italian. I thought that she must enjoy cooking, and indeed she does.
On her website there is a whole section on her personal recipes – not simple little recipes, but gourmet recipes. I found out that she loves to have dinner parties where she cooks for her friends and family. My interest was growing.
About ten days later, Sofia and I met at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and sat down for an interview. By this time, I had become familiar her work and her history. She arrived happy and upbeat, telling me she had spent the past four days putting together a benefit for the earthquake victims of Mexico – it was to take place the day after our interview. I thought I misheard – five days to put together a charity event? That seemed crazy. Again, she really captured my attention.
Depth of character – where does it come from? I was finding out.
The next night we attended that event at Club Rain in Studio City. One would never have guessed that this event didn’t even exist as a wish 6 days prior.
Milos is best known for her role in CSI: Miami, playing the detective Yelina Salas, as well as her role as mafia boss Annalisa Zucca in The Sopranos. She was in Cafe American starring opposite Valerie Bertinelli for NBC and directed by TV veteran and multi-award-winning director and producer James Burrows, with whom she worked with on several sitcoms, including Friends among others. She also had a recurring role on Curb Your Enthusiasm as Richard Lewis’s girlfriend. The list of other roles and characters she has played is vast and varied.
Like many artists, she is proud of her accomplishments, but she is more excited about her new endeavors, artistic challenges and roles yet to play. She has her eyes set steadily on the future while enjoying every moment in the now.
THT: Is there anything that is coming out soon you would like to talk about?
Milos: “I finished a film noir movie that is called Fake News in which I am starring opposite Eric Roberts. It has a great cast including John Savage, who plays the President; Martin Kove, who plays the vice president; Tori Higginson, John Barrymore, among others. It’s a small indie film with a great cast that pulls it all together. The word is they want to do the festival rounds. I think people will enjoy it.
Then there is a movie coming out in Italy called Sangre Negra with Eric Estrada, Eric Roberts, Robert Miano and my dear friend Saundra Santiago. I once again play a Mafia boss. My fans from The Sopranos are going to love this. The episode where my character is introduced will air at the end of November or beginning of December. This will be coming out on Amazon Prime.
Then we have Give Me My Baby which use to be called The Stranger Inside. It’s a thriller in which I play a very Machiavellian character. It is currently airing on the Lifetime Movie Network and is rating very well. It is written and directed by Danny J. Boyle. I am starring in it with Kelly Sullivan and Peter Hogan.
I also just did a fun cameo in the Italian movie Odissea nell’ospizio. It’s a family comedy featuring some very well known Italian comedians. With my friend Kiki Melendez, we created this show called Hail Mary. She is the writer and we are both the producers on it. We shot the pilot and it screened at the Latin Hollywood Festival. It was the first LHF that Melendez organized. That is another one that we will be shopping around and it is also comedy. We have put it on the back burner because we are all so busy at the moment. She is working with her comedy troupe The Hot Tamales.
A fun and learning experience for me was to go to MIPCOM with The Border, which is a Canadian network CBC show that I starred in for two seasons, playing the homeland security agent Bianca La Garda. It came out about eight years ago and it was unprecedented at the time that a Canadian show would be sold internationally. It is still playing in many countries around the world. It was a great opportunity for me to go to a festival where I could help promote something that I was a part of. I found that I was pretty good at it! It’s something I have not yet had the opportunity to do in the US.
I had a recurring role on Chicago Justice, which is Dick Wolf’s new show – and it is now showing in Italy. I worked with Carl Weathers, who just received a lifetime achievement award at the ARFA International Film Festival in Hollywood a few days ago. I played an attorney Mary Willis on that one. The joy and challenge for me with this role is I didn’t play anyone ethnic. I played Mary Willis. I got rid of my accent and had to learn a whole new lingo. It was the legal lingo and I had a very fast indoctrination. It was a great challenge and I hope that I rose to the occasion. I think I did because I got some very nice feed back from the director. The wonderful Eriq La Salle from ER who is now directing Chicago PD, which is the other Dick Wolf Production. Unfortunately Chicago Justice just got cancelled so I am once again available.”
THT: So you mentioned that you want to move into production.
Milos: “I’m an actress and I love what I do. Production is something that I have started digging my feet into. I am attached as an actress and producer to few different projects that my focus is on.
One is called the Witch of Napoli, written by Michael Schmicker, who is a fan of mine from the time I played Neopolitan mafia boss Annalisa Zucca . It’s based on a real story that took place in the 19th century in Napoli, Italy. James D’Alessandro, a friend and great writer, will pen the screenplay. With James we also have a great TV series or wheel that I am very excited about called Gloria. It is based on the science fiction novel series by Camille Minichino. It has a wonderful female-driven role that I am looking forward to do, so I hope that we can get it placed on the air. There are also other projects in the works .
My first love is acting. I am involved with a theater group. I study with Ivana Chubbuck every Thursday night. When I am not shooting somewhere, I am here in her Master Class. It’s a group of working actors that get together and play like we are fifteen years old. We all love it. She is a ballbuster and has taken me to a new level. The thing is after twenty-five years, we get bored with what we do. Having a coach helps push you to expand. Look, knowledge is power. As artists, there is no dead end. It’s not like I’ve been to the academy of “so and so” and you’re done. Acting is a muscle. If you don’t use it, it atrophies, as does your mind. Continually studying our craft helps us to more effectively express the story and the message our character is trying to convey. There are always more effective ways to communicate something. It is a challenge to do that in a group of your peers and push yourself.”
THT: You did get your degree in business and economics in Switzerland so that does more than likely play into your ability to help market yourself.
Milos: “You bring up a good point. I always thought that my degree in business didn’t really help with my career as an actress and model – now that you bring it up in this context, it probably has.”
THT: Where do you see yourself going? What new things are you working on? I see you that you like working with groups that empower women and are active in supporting different causes.
Milos: “Tomorrow night I am helping to put together a benefit to help the earthquake victims of Mexico. I wanted to stand together and lend a helping hand. I wanted to do something about it. It’s easy to talk or feel sorry but I like to take action. This is a motto that I live by. I would love to do more fundraisers. I love supporting causes and I am not opposed to starting my own organization so that I can support more charitable causes. We are going to be doing another benefit for Mexico in January. This one will have more lead-time so it can be properly promoted.
One of the great things about being an actress on a series like CSI: Miami, which is now seen in over 189 countries, is the recognition that it brings me. I am able to use that recognition to bring attention and focus on worthy causes that might otherwise not get the same attention. I have the privilege of using my celebrity to be of service to others, to be a valuable member of this group that we are all a part of. We sometimes forget that. It becomes a “me-me-me” world and Hollywood is perceived as that but it isn’t really, nor does it have to be.
We as artists, actors, musicians, directors and writers have the ability to inspire, motivate and lead the way for others. We can set an example by talking action and doing something about the issues in our world. I say something on my website. ‘Politicians most of the time micromanage things that already exist.’ Artists of all kinds have the courage to create new avenues and opportunities. Life is not static. It is always changing so we need to create more diverse opportunities.’ So I want to support and encourage within the entertainment industry and within our artist group.
I would also like to see more women in position of power for instance, more woman producers and directors. Really, I’d like to see more woman doctors and politicians. Let’s talk about the Weinstein situation for instance. I say this is much bigger than Weinstein, because this has been going on for a long time and not just in US or just in the entertainment industry, because it is still a man-dominated world. There are men in all walks of life that basically blackmail young women into giving them sexual favors in order to win a role or keep their jobs or get promotions or get a deserved break. And it’s not OK to have young vulnerable women led to believe that these men in power can abuse of their status and get away with it as they have done for a long, long time.
So the Harvey Weinstein thing came down like an avalanche that was long, long overdue. That’s what this is about or should be about. This abuse has got to stop and men like him need to be made responsible for their actions. We all need to become more responsible for change, not just aware.”
THT: Not to go off on a tangent, but what do you think you brought with you from living in Italy and going to school in Switzerland that has served you in your career here in the US?
Milos: “That is a great question. Lucky I was born to a Greek mother and Italian father, lived in Switzerland and raised with a Tunisian family while my parents were working day and night shifts to make a good life for all of us. By the time I was seven, I spoke four languages then by the age of nineteen I spoke English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Greek and a Swiss dialect. I was lucky to be surrounded by all these different cultures and languages where I grew up.”
THT: Many people grow up in Europe but not all of them can speak so many languages.
Milos: “I have a good ear. Although I am not a musician per se, when I do play music I play by ear. I did sing in choirs but never pursued it professionally. That ability helped me in learning different languages.”
THT: Do you have a philosophy that you live by?
Milos: “In general I am very solution oriented. I do not like to be caught up in problems. I acknowledge them but I think problems are there to challenge us to consider other options, make a change, take a different path or do so much more than we thought we could do. Anybody that has worked with or for me knows that I am very solution-oriented. It keeps me sane and allows me to have fun. You have to have fun a spirit of play in this lifetime right? You can see the difference between successful people and those that are not. I don’t mean successful just materially but successful in life. They can be at any material level. They are people that have a different quality about them. They in general are solution-oriented. Then there are people that like to have problems and they will create them. That is their game. We need to keep those kinds of vampires away from us because they drag us down. It is important because as artists we have a great responsibility.”
THT: I see that many of the characters you have played have been very strong female characters.
Milos: “I love that.”
THT: Your life and education have given you a lot to draw upon in your acting and business.
Milos: “Many artists have had a difficult time in their lives. I left home very early to be on my own and that wasn’t easy. Because I lived in Switzerland and my folks were back in Italy working, I had to become responsible for myself, and that forms you. I had parents that first and foremost put value on integrity and faith. That saved me in many things. It allowed me to take on more responsibility than sometimes I think I am capable of, but I rise to the occasion. It is not easy, but we visualize a positive outcome and perhaps that is the secret. There is a saying I like: ‘You are as alive as you can communicate and you are as alive as you can dream’. So we should never stop dreaming. If we are busy creating positive outcomes and positive goals then we are not creating obstacles and drama that keep us victims. This is a very, very big thing to understand but I think once we do we can flourish and prosper. I wish this understanding on many artists because it takes a lot of courage. I applaud all the artists.”
THT: Is there something that keeps you grounded?
Milos: “I like things that keep me grounded to who I am, to my culture, to my faith, and my soul. I also like doing physical exercise, like doing yoga, which connects me to my breath. It also helps with concentration, strength and helps me relax. I also take long power walks but I do something daily. I am grateful. Gratitude is the key for abundance and a good heart. With a good heart you can have beautiful eyes that see beautiful things and in turn create beautiful art. You can attract beautiful friends.
I love salsa dancing because it keeps me in the present. I can turn the lead over to man, which I like to do maybe because I am not married (she laughs). But in a split second, the woman has to be creative enough to shine and know the right steps to make him look good as well.
In the end, we are the head to the neck or the other way around. We are the blossom to the stem. In the dance you have to be in the present moment all the time. I can express myself and be in the present moment. Whether it’s dancing, painting, or cooking, they all keep me in the present time. When you are in the present moment you charge yourself again. There is no other way to charge yourself up than to be in the present moment.”
In the middle of this interview, there was a mini-crisis with the sound for the benefit show at Club Rain. As serendipity would have it, my photographer and myself are musicians and sound people. Over the course of 25 minutes, Milos processed the technical problems, she conveyed the situation to us both, and together we came up with solutions. Her focus and ability to convey the technicalities in a field she is not familiar with was very impressive. I came away happy in the knowledge that whatever this beautiful and successful actress sets her mind to, she will manifest it. That certainly shows a lot of character.