Melina Kanakaredes
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Her Story of Success...

Melina is a second-generation Greek-American who was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, as the youngest of three sisters. Her retired father was an insurance salesman and her mother is a homemaker. Growing up, she spent many hours in her family's candy store. She began singing locally with her sisters and made her acting debut at 8 years old in a community theater production of "Tom Sawyer." In high school, she would troop over to the all-boys Jesuit school to work on stage ("They really needed girls for their plays."). She was a runner-up in the Miss Ohio beauty pageant. Kanakaredes attended Ohio State University to study music, dance and theater, but the lack of unity between the theater and music departments prompted her to opt for a conservatory education. She transferred to Point Park College in Pittsburgh, which was affiliated with the Pittsburgh Playhouse, and she soon appeared in commercials, industrial films and on stage at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and Pittsburgh Public Theatre. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of fine arts in theater and moved to New York City, where she supported her acting dreams by working on a dinner boat and in off-Broadway plays. Eventually, Kanakaredes was spotted by a William Morris agent, and from 1991-95, she portrayed Greek immigrant Eleni Andros Cooper and earned two Emmy nominations in the daytime drama "The Guiding Light." This led to being cast in a recurring role as Jimmy Smitsí girlfriend in "NYPD Blue." In 1995 she co-starred in the drama series "New York News" and was a co-lead in the drama "Leaving L.A." She guest-starred in "The Practice" and "Oz," as well as in the television movie "Saint Maybe." Her feature films include the recent "Rounders," "Dangerous Beauty" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight." Known for researching her projects, she visited a coroner's office for "Leaving L.A." and plastic surgeons for "Providence." She was cast for "Providence" without an audition and the other members of the cast were chosen on the basis of their chemistry with her. Televison's latest trip back home began with Providence (Fridays, 8 P.M./ET), which debuted as an instant hit three seasons ago, giving NBC its highest-rated new drama since ER, despite largely negative reviews. The story of Sydney Hansen(Melina Kanakaredes), a beautiful plastic surgeon moves home with her family to care for her widowed father Jim(Mike Farrell) and two younger siblings, Joanie(Puala Cale) and Robbie(Seth Peterson), instantly found an audience amoung nostalgic baby boomers ready for some Friday-night comfort food. The show also made a star out of Kanakaredes,33,known only for her work on Guiding Light and guest roles on NYPD Blue and The Practice. Kanakaredes decison to do the show proved how shrewd no matter how homespun her image-she really is. "SO many scripts are the same," says Kanakaredes. "Another cop show, another lawer show." She had turned down the chance to replace Carey Lowell on Law and Order before agreeing to star in Providence. "I took this role because it was about a family." That strong sense of family can be traced to the actress's close-knit upbringing in Akron, Ohio. Her parents Harry and Connie have two older daughters, Aretta and Lia, who actually provided the actress with inspiration for Syd. "I always was the little munckin who got away with murder, so it was hard for me to play the oldest on Providence," says Kanakaredes who started her career by dancing in community theater." Melina's grandparents were greek immigrants who thought that education meant being a doctor or a lawyer. Then she wanted to be an actor and it was like, "Are you kidding?" she recalls. "When Melina went to New York City to study dance in the summer she had to call her mom every single day. Connie Kanakaredes remains a rock in her life. She has been living with the actress and Melina's husband Peter Constantinides, and playing nanny to their daughter Zoe who was born in May of 2000, during Melina's first week back at work. "I thought I was busy before," Kanakaredes says sinking into a chair on the candlelit patio of a neighborhood bistro for a glass of wine after a long day on the set. "I never knew I could do so much in 24 hours," says Melina. If life as a mother has put incredible time constraints on Kanakaredes, her colleagues haven't complained. The folks at Providence confirm that the star's plunge into motherhood has also given the feel-good family drama a fresh spirit of collegiality. Zoe is a constant presence on the set. She already has her own trailor and a bevy of admoirers among the cast and crew. "Its like we all had the baby," says costar Puala Cale. " It's just so great to have Zoe around all day because it really helps keeps things in perspective. "There's always been a geniuneness and kindness among the people who work on the show," adds John Masius, the series creator and executive producer. "But Melina is such a natural mother, it's gone up a notch now." What a world of difference from last season, when Kanakaredes found herself " a nerotic mess" when it came time to break the news of her pregnancy to erh Providence family. As Syd is single, Kanakaredes knew writing her real-life pregnancy into the show was not an option. " I wanted to take everyone out for a nice dinner and tell them,"she says, "but I was so nervous I forgot my wallet. So I didnt even have money for the valet, let alone dinner." Her fears were dispelled when Mansius, a father three, congradulated her, then handed her a $100 bill with the stern warning "to always keep money in my car," she recalls. " I was like, OK, I have two husbands now. During her term, an exhausted Kanakaredes also spent several weeks literally on her back. "Zoe was sitting right on my scaitic nerve and I couldnt walk,"she explains. To hde her conditions from viewers, camera angles were rejiggered and Syd was hospitalized with an encephalitis-induced coma. "Last season, the cameras went up, up(my body)and now there slowely going down," she says with a rueful laugh, "because I am not one of those women who just snap right back into shape." In fact, Syd is also due for recovery. "Syd is bouncing back but not really fast," she says. Syd will also find some TLC in the arms of her physical therapist, John Hemming, played by Melrose Place's Rob Estes. "Today, we had a scene where Rob kissed me, and just then my mom brought Zoe on the set, and Zoe started to cry,"says Kanakaredes, showing off a photo of her dark eyed, dark haired daughter. "Think about working with an actress who's just had a baby and having to make out with her and then, oops, she has to go nurse the baby. That's why its nice to have a guy like Rob who's been married for years and has a little boy," she says, adding witha contented sigh, "Motherhood is the hardest role I've ever had, but it's the best one. Melina then got a landing role of Nicolette Karas,playing as a reporter in the action thriller 15 Minutes, which came out on March 9th 2001. Despite Melina's excitement, the idea of working with the imposing Robert DeNiro-who plays who plays a superstar homicide detective in the film-was more than a little intimidating. At first, "Before I met him I was quite nervous," she recalls. "But once you get to know him, he's charming, fun and a very giving person. I had such an incredible time working with him. And e was extremely generous to Zoe when she was born." DeNiro sent the newborn a big toy chest filled with goodies. And Melina was pleased to learn that, tough presona aside, DeNiro often bring his own children to his movie sets. "After I met her, I knew Melina would be able to master the role," DeNiro says admiringly. "It was a difficult part to cast. ZThe role called someone to be believable both as a TV field reporter and in straight dramatic scenes." And how did Melina do? "She was terrific," declares DeNiro. While 15 Minutes moves Melina into a whole new arena, its still Providence for which people know the name Kanakaredes (even if they dont always know how to pronounce it.) "I was to continue doing films," she says. But, for now anyway, not at the expense of the show that has changed her life. "My biggest concer is that, regardless of our success, we all continue to push and make the best show we can make." If Melina is content to place new demands upon herself professionally, her personal life is another matter. Now that Peter has joined her and Zoe in Los Angeles the couple have grown weary of bicoastal commuting- Melina is ready for more family time. That is, as much of it as the star of a popular TV drama can hope to have. "My career is still important to me. But now its important based on taking this experience of motherhood and using it to become much better at everything I do." Melina and ehr family now reside in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Melina's birthday is April 23, 1967.


Fifteen Minutes (2000/I) .... Nicolette "Providence" (1999) TV Series .... Dr. Sydney Hansen Saint Maybe (1998) (TV) .... Rita Rounders (1998) .... Barbara Dangerous Beauty (1998) .... Courtesan "Oz" (1997) TV Series .... Marilyn Crenshaw (1998) "Leaving L.A." (1997) TV Series .... Libby Galante Long Kiss Goodnight, The (1996) .... Trin "New York News" (1995) TV Series .... Angela Villanova "NYPD Blue" (1993) TV Series .... Benita Alden (1995) White Man's Burden (1994) .... Daphne ... aka Bleeding Hearts (1995) (USA: TV title) "Guiding Light, The" (1952) TV Series .... Eleni Andros Cooper (#1) (1991-94) .