Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with up and coming star Katie Chonacas (“Streets of Blood,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). After rising out of the modeling world to transition into acting and producing, Katie has built a diverse and prosperous career in entertainment. But, her passions don’t stop with the screen. Chonacas also takes pride in her artwork, currently on exhibition at Hollywood’s Groundwork Coffee shop.
So tell me about ‘Streets of Blood.’ It’s a change of face from some of your prior roles: playing a teenage drug addict versus doing acting on something like ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.’ How was it getting in to that type of character and your role there?
Katie Chonacas: It was really great. I read the script and then, I saw the role and I just knew it’s a great opportunity as an actress. Most of time in the entertainment industry you want to be beautiful, you want to get dressed up, you want to look the best and this character, she has track marks going up her arm and bruises on her eyes and her hair is all narly. Her clothes have holes in them. It was a cool opportunity to not only physically go there and showcase yourself, but to also mentally go there and try a new things that aren’t normal. Because most young girls are not like teenage crack addict whores [laughs].
I hope not.
Katie Chonacas: So I thought, hey, how many times in my life am I going to do a teenage crack addict whore [joint laughter]. Let’s do it!
I know you have had like a very diverse career coming up in modeling and then singing, has it been difficult as a woman to be pigeonholed or trapped in to being just the pretty girl?
Katie Chonacas: It hasn’t happened to me. I have been very, very blessed, I remember early on in my career, agents sat me down and said you can be the next Sarah Michelle Gellar. And they think I could work all of these like core kind of films.Then I heard early in my career, so many people get pigeonholed and it was like, I don’t want that to happen to me. So purposely, I have shied away from certain roles, I have been offered or I have been interested, but then decided to go in another direction because I don’t want to take the path of just being seen in one way.
I have been able to pick up my role so they are all in rotation. So, yeah, it’s been really neat. I was able to play a socialite from New York, a socialite from New Orleans. I play this manipulative Tuesday’s bitch, from LA, when I played Jessica Simpson’s best friend [in "Major Movie Star"]. It’s so cool playing all like the teen-drama stuff on TV and then all of a sudden I get to flip it on “It’s Always Sunny” [with a totally different type of character]. So it’s really exciting. I have just been able to like try so many different kinds of roles whether it be TV, comedy, drama or a film. It’s been a complete blessing. I am only getting started. I hope I don’t get pigeonholed into a same kind of character, certain kind of actor, I don’t think I will.
With the work that I have already done I have already proven I could be so diverse, I think I am past that point of being pigeonholed.
So getting back to the Streets of Blood, it’s more of a thriller and now you are producing Riot and Jekyll & Hyde. Do you find like that is kind of like the genre or that you love the most like what is it about the thriller genre or that’s really attracting you right now?
Katie Chonacas: I have learned a lot from producer Randall Emmett, you could almost say I have been his protégé. He literally does 10 movies a year, so he taught me everything I know about producing through his company Emmett/Furla Films. His company has built a platform in Hollywood for the last 13 years, where they do high concept big action thriller movies, and that is where they find their success. They don’t do comedies, they do thrillers and so that’s why when I am reading scripts, I am looking for scripts to bring to Emmett/Furla. Those were the kind of projects I am looking for, like I will be reading. I went to London and I had 10 scripts. And one script was about, these surfers in Hawaii, these young, beautiful hot surfer guys and girls and I could play two of the leads in the movie. That was like two roles I could to pick from. But, that’s not the kind of movies that Emmett/Furla Films makes. So I am really reading the scripts and I know what kind of movies they like, what kind of movies they make. Having been somewhat mentored by Randall, I know what his taste is for a script and it is very similar to mine, just looking for quality films, and that is something that comes naturally — because as an actor, you read tons of scripts! I like to think that when I am reading a script, I know if it is written well or not.
You’re doing the acting as well as now venturing into producing and then in your free time you are painting. How do you feel that you are able to balance of all of your time? You pretty much are engaged in the gamut of creative work, how do you find the time and energy to balance your life?
Well, the reason why I can do what I do is because I have my faith and I have strength. God is by my side and surrounding me with everything that I do. I come from a big rich family and we’re very tough and stubborn. We have very high goals and expectations. And with all that I built the strong team around me. With the people on my team, my acting agent, my publishers, my mentors, they have really like guided me down to certain road, so I stayed focused. And then in my free time I tend to – I don’t have a problem like just – I can see a movie by myself, I can go eat by myself, that’s completely fine, but I prefer painting. I love painting and I have so much ambition and aggression and compassion and passion for so many things in life and its like – you only can say so much and sometimes when you speak it doesn’t come out right or people don’t understand exactly what you mean. So I express it through my art and I am able to put on the canvas and tell a story, a story that I don’t have to speak because it goes on to the canvas and I tell my story the way I want to tell it and people can see my story the way they want to see it.
How would you describe your style of painting?
Katie Chonacas: I do collages, I do very detailed collages. I’m into really like high end collages. I take portraits of Scarlet Johansson, Mariah Carey, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn and I take these collages and I make stories out of them, and I detail it with color rather it would be bright and sophisticated with like worms like really happy or to be like really dark and moody and suductive. And then also I do this other kind of art where I do 3D images on canvas. I have stems and dead roses and I use petals, rose petals and I use leaves. I use the earth, I use natural stems that grow from the earth and I put them on the canvases.
It sounds pretty cool.
Katie Chonacas: Yeah, and I mean if you come to Hollywood, they just put on art yesterday and we are having the premiere next week. They hung up a 11 of my pieces and it’s right in the heart of Hollywood at Groundwork Coffee shop. I mean it’s not a Starbucks coffee shop. It’s not a coffee bean. It’s Groundwork coffee work. There is so much sold there in the history and it’s in the heart of Hollywood across the street from CNN and they have 11 of my pieces there. They have 11 of my pieces up with my name, in a plaque, and the name of the pieces. So it’s like my soul and I am going to be still in the heart of Hollywood for the next three months. Tourists, people who come to LA, people who live in LA, they are all going to be able to see my name and see my work and I just feel like, it’s like leaving a mark – if you will.
Definitely that’s amazing, congratulations.
Katie Chonacas: Thank you. And you want to know something? It’s like – guess what, three weeks ago, three weeks ago I came up with the idea to go around to different places in Hollywood to see if they would hang my art, to see if they like my art. The guy who I’m working with, Robert, he sees so many pieces of art all the time and I am like, really, and he says, yeah. It just happens so naturally and I was just like, “Wow, thank you so much.”
Next thing, you know, I am like driving my painting around in Hollywood to show people and now I’m having an art show. My artwork is going for the next three months. I am creator. No one told me to do this. There is no right or wrong way of how to do something, it’s like you just have to invent or you have to create it and you have to make it happen. And that’s what I have done with everything in my life, you know, everything.
You used to work with 50 Cent, and now you are going to be working with him on Jekyll & Hyde. How did that relationship come about to bring him on board, where you a part of that to bring on board or did he audition and read for the part?
Katie Chonacas: No, what happened was Randall Emmett is partners with 50 Cent now. They started a company called Cheetah Vision Films. So, I read the projects, I bring them to Emmett/Furla – to Randall Emmett and Bonnie Timmermann. She is a huge Casting Director in New York, she has been my friend for a few years. She is producing projects now too — she recently casts Public Enemies with Johnny Depp and Michael Mann.
So she brought the project to me, she got the project from Brett Walsh who is over in London. They have Glasshouse Pictures in London and they do adaptations of books and this is on Jekyll & Hyde. So, Brett gave it to Bonnie and then Bonnie has a good relationship with Forest Whitaker. So, she brought the project to me with Forest already attached. With Brett from London and Forest Whitaker as a star, and she thought 50, she came up with the idea that 50 will be good for the lead. So she gave me the script, I read this script, I love the script, I like the script a lot. So I gave it to Randall so we could give it to 50. And Randall read it and he loved it, so he gave it to 50. 50 loved it. So then I got 50 in a room with Abel Ferrara and Bonnie Timmermann in New York and the meeting went really, really well and 50 said he is in. So that we have Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent playing and starring in the movie and like there are yet to be determined if I am going to be like a producer or like an executive producer, you know it depends because this is the first two projects I am producing and so they might give me an Executive Producer credit instead of a producer credit. It depends.
Okay, what would you rather have?
Katie Chonacas: I would rather have a producing credit, I will definitely rather have a producing credit. But I understand that like Randall has made 50, 60 movies, Randall wants me to be a producer, but Brett Walsh, he has only done like two or three movies or whatever, but he feels like he is the producer on the movie because he has been living with it for like a long time and then he brought Bonnie and then Bonnie brought it to me. So we will what happens with that but it depends, it depends on – we need $500,000, so if I can bring $500,000 to the table, then of course I will got a producer credit right away, but if not then I will probably just settle for an Executive Producer credit which is still fine> I will also get paid. I’ll still be an Executive Producer my first feature film with Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent with Abel, the legendary Abel Ferrara writing and directing. So, it’s all good, no matter what.
That’s awesome. So you like to travel obviously –
Katie Chonacas: I love traveling.
Greece and NYC are on the top of your list. Since part of our team is from NYC, what are your favorite things you do while you are in New York?
Katie Chonacas: The most favorite thing I love to do is to go to Milos, I believe it’s on 55th or 56th, Milos. It’s my favorite restaurant, it’s so yummy, the food is so good. And that’s the first thing I do, when I arrive I go to Milos and I have an amazing meal and I eat food with my friends. I love going to see shows. I love seeing shows so much.
Most people they move to New York and hope things happen. Well, I got a one way ticket, I went to New York and I stayed out there, I just met people and created some opportunities and I got myself like set up with the whole bunch of different opportunities in regards to investors, producing, acting, modeling, commercials and working in a studio, working with different song writers for music. So now that I got all that set up, I am here in LA, I am packing everything up and I am going to be in New York as of August 4th, I will be in New York and I am going to stay out there for three months and just see how it goes. I am not going to put any limitations or any timelines or anything, I am just going to see how I feel after three months and I am excited about all the opportunities that are coming up.
In the future what other projects you are hoping to get off the ground maybe like, your pet projects that you want to produced or roles you want to star or just, what would be like real nice to do?
Katie Chonacas: My next role is they really want to have a perfume line, so my name is Kyriaki, it’s my baptismal name. It’s Greek. It means Sunday in Greek. So I am looking for investors so they can help me build the Kyriaki brand.
And then I just wanted to get my record deal and my music name will be Kyriaki or Sunday. That’s what I want to do, just get a smash hit, so I can get my record deal hopefully with Universal Republic. I have been talking with them for the last eight months, they have been developing me and coaching me and mentoring me and putting me in rooms with certain people on studios like develop a smash hit. So that’s what I hope to do, get the smash hit and then get my deal.