A king of improvisation

 By Joan Mac Trevor, CinÚ TÚlÚ Revue, 1994

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"I left everything fallen one fine day. Without work, I found myself with 150 dollars in the pocket but full of ambition." Become assistant of the movie director Milton Katselas, Thaao Penghlis can be allowed to follow courses of dramatic art which very quickly catapult him in the world of soap-operas, these famous daytime shows which make the happiness of American television. "Because of my rather Latin look, I only played roles of foreigners with redoubtable charm, initially in General Hospital where I played Victor Cassadine, then the count Antony DiMera in Days of our Lives. At the time, I feared that my career becomes extremely limited because the producers took me only when they needed a Spaniard, an Italian, in short a foreigner".

Curiously, Thaao Penghlis, during three years of investigations for Mission : Impossible, never played the Greeks. It is only very recently and for the needs of two TV movies that he could take again his original accent. "In Memories of Midnight, I played a Greek ship-owner in front of another Greek ship-owner and enemy played by Omar Sharif. When he arrived in a room, I always had the strange feeling to see me older ! I feel myself very near to him. My second role of Greek was in The Look Alike where I shared the generic with Diane Ladd and Melissa Gilbert. But I limit myself in this kind of character. I do not especially want to be catalogued, that I become the Greek and nothing else."

After his departure of Mission : Impossible, Thaao Penghlis took again service in soaps and joined the team of Santa Barbara. Until the premature end of the show, he played there the famous Doctor Micah DeAngelis, of Italian origin this time, with a weak for homeopathy just like Penghlis who only takes care of him with plants. "After Mission : Impossible, where we have time to repeat, to develop the episodes,  this is always a little frustrating to find oneself in the "botched" rhythm of the soaps where the morning we learn our text to shoot the afternoon without a lot of preparation", he says. For Thaao, the great interest of these soaps are the scenes of love and they are frequent. "This is an honor to play a scene of love in front of a camera. That can be dangerous and I like that. There is place to improvise, with sometimes surprising repercussions. In Days of our Lives for example, we were in a foam bath when my partner lost her bra... It was necessary that, during all the scene, I blow some foam to her to cover her breasts !"

"The only disadvantage of a scene of love is to have to kiss with conviction somebody who does not attract you particularly. You have to make this moment very intense and I am famous for this quality among actresses. I take them by surprise by saying to them something which is not in the text or by making a gesture which is not envisaged. I always obtain an exchange which adds sensuality to the scene. This is not deprived of any danger, because it happens that the body takes the top on the will and that you cannot control you anymore ! (laughs). Fortunately, I became master in the art to cause the desire without consuming it... I remember a day when I had put two panties. I had to play a scene of love in a bed. When I slid myself under the covers, I removed the first panties that I threw and I jumped on my panicked partner. I exactly obtained the kind of reaction that I wanted from her for the scene. Once finished, I left the bed with my second panties to the great relief of the team !"

The anecdotic side of the character put aside, Thaao Penghlis is an avid art lover whom the eclectic collection fills his superb property of Hollywood. "All that remains from a civilization is art. For me, this is the best reason in the world to be a collector." And not only of female conquests for this incorrigible seducer.

Thaao Penghlis is on the way to become a very famous actor in the United States and not only for his roles in Mission : Impossible and Santa Barbara. His case is regularly quoted in example for the help that he brings to abandoned children. Thaao already attends to five orphans and has the intention to increase his circle of solidarity with a sixth one. "I have collaborated with the Christian Children's Fund for eight years. I attend to children in Brazil, in Africa, in Greece and in Italy. I send money to them every month. I cannot be unaware of what occurs around me. I have travelled a lot in the world and I saw poverty, homeless people, people who die of hunger. I had a lot of chance in my life. I realize that I form part of the privileged people. This is my duty to help the paupers." Ah ! If the most famous ones were listening to him...