- “JUST BECAUSE,” SAYS MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY ABOUT HIS NEW CHILDREN’S BOOK
- Septemvriana: A Night of Terror for Greeks in Constantinople
- THE DARK DAY OF THE DISTOMO MASSACRE BY THE NAZIS
- The Hellenic Initiative’s 11th Annual Gala to Honor Ted Leonsis
- Full Circle: Indie Film Reconnects a Filmmaker with His Former Teacher-Turned Screenwriter
Xen Sams: Greek America’s Wonder Woman
by Eleni Kostopoulos
Her flawless features will surely capture your attention, but Xen Sams is more than just a pretty face. The Greek-Canadian-American actress is a business-savvy beauty who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theater, speaks four languages fluently and makes a delectable spanakopita. Her impressive, diverse resume spans over 10 years, and there’s no stopping this rising star any time soon.
With roots from Greece (her father is from the Nafpaktos region, and her mother is from the Kassiopi and Ioannina regions) Sams- known by her family and friends as “Xenaki”- spent her youth in Montreal, Canada. It was there she began to develop her work ethic and what she said she believes is the recipe to success: remaining humble, working hard and following your own rules. “I’m an atypical thinker,” Sams said. “You must go where there’s no path, and leave a trail.”
Her savvy, go-getter attitude is what landed Sams a starring role as Agent Amanda Chase in “The Protocol”, a cutting edge television series/episodic produced by Brad Feinstein. Also featuring Kathryn Morris (“Cold Case” and “Minority Report”), Max Ryan (“Death Race”) and Johnny Messner (“Tears of the Sun”), the series is currently in the midst of a bidding war between several networks. One highlight from the production experience for Sams, was getting to know and learn from her colleague, Morris.
“She really took me under her wing, and was so nurturing and motherly,” Sams said of the well-respected actress.
Sams is also a featured actress in the film “Bumped”, which is currently in its pre-production phase. “I play the lead amongst an ensemble cast of A-list actors,” she said of the “dramedy”, set at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and centered on five diverse 20-year-olds who get bumped from the same flight and subsequently become acquainted with one another. “It is a modern-day ‘Breakfast Club’.”
She is no overnight success, however, nor is she a stranger to adversity. She adopted a “glass half-full” mentality early in life and at just 19, at height of her modeling career she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent radiation. “At the time, I realized how quickly beauty can fade,” she said, noting she lost her eyelashes during the trying period. “It was then I knew I wanted to invest in something more meaningful, and more artistic.”
That’s when Sams immersed herself in the art of acting, working with top coaches and schools in New York City to perfect her craft. She trained at the Stella Adler film institute and studied at Black Nexxus acting school with the famous Susan Batson, who has coached A-list actors like Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly. To excel, she studied method and improv techniques at The Lee Stasberg Theater and Film Institute of New York under Lola Cohen and other teachers in an intensive program.
Her hard work paid off, helping her to land roles in movies like “Casino Jack”, alongside Kevin Spacey and Barry Pepper. She was also in the film “Push” with Chazz Palminteri. She debuted in the indie circuit with the short film “The Last Place on Earth”, directed and produced by her longtime friend and Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Fletcher (“Precious”). The short film won second place at the Sundance Film festival and helped Sams make her transition into full-length feature films.
Like King Midas, the stunning star has a knack for turning anything she touches into gold. A long-standing interest in buying and selling properties, coupled with a love for New York City, has culminated in her desire to take on the business of real estate. “I absolutely love taking old, distressed properties and flipping them,” she said.
Currently, she serves as the direct celebrity liaison for the VIP, exclusive division of New York City-based Town Real Estate. “Since my passion is real estate, and since all of my friends are in the entertainment industry, it made sense,” Sams said. “I am licensed- I did that for fun- but then it turned into something more serious. I am very well-versed on the Manhattan real estate [market]. My investments have primarily been for myself, but they have always been money-makers.”
Sams added that she’s especially thrilled for Town’s newest office location on West 14th street at New York’s iconic High Line, which is where she intends to send her friends should they require any real estate assistance, for purchases or investments.
Though her acting career always takes center stage, Sams’s flare for fashion hasn’t faded over the years, still making her mark at New York City’s Fashion Week annually. At just 18, Sams was scouted on a beach in Fort Lauderdale, FL while visiting her father and searching for the right Ivy League school to pursue a career in medicine through a Canadian government-granted scholarship. Her life plans were rewritten when she was immediately signed to Elite Model Management in Manhattan, where she then relocated to and started working as a model. Known on the scene for her piercing, crystal gray eyes and her magnetic personality, Sams has appeared in both television and print ads for well-regarded brands like Maybelline, Guess Jeans, Parasuco, L’oreal, Pantene Pro-V, Tiffany & Co., XOXO, LaPerla Lingerie, among many others. Her latest beauty editorial can be found in the November/December issue of BELLA NYC magazine, a special winter edition of the fashion, health and wellness publication.
Sams always made it apparent that no matter what great heights she escalates to, she will never lose sight of who she really is. “Often, it’s the behind-the-scenes people on the film set who don’t get any credit,” she told NEO. “They are on the same level, not below, me or anyone else. You need to always stay humble; I am not better than anyone. If you don’t treat people with respect, you won’t go far. I’m that girl who will go on a coffee run and make sure everyone on set has a cup.”
This down-to-earth perspective on life means she falls like anyone else, and strives to get back up stronger than before. Late last year, Sams was involved in an accident that could have called for reconstructive surgery on her face, forever damaging her acting aspirations. “People might say that was an unlucky circumstance, but I say I’m so lucky, because it could have been so much worse,” she said, adding that someone must have been watching over her during the accident and subsequent recovery period that caused her to refrain from working for several months.
Further illustrating her propensity to give more than take, Sams remains involved with different charities and organizations. The one she dedicates the most allegiance to is an organization she actually founded called “Embracing Artists NYC”, which offers free weekly seminars on the business of acting, aimed to educate aspiring models and actors on how to procure legitimate work in the entertainment industry without getting scammed.
“The class is really for everyone, from the average person just starting out to serious aspiring actors and models ,” said Sams, noting she experienced dealing with her fair share of scam artists when initially entering the business. “Talent is important, but marketing yourself is even more important. If you can market yourself properly, you can do anything.”
What’s next for this dark-haired stunner? Most often type-cast for action-packed roles that utilize her Martial Arts background, she actively continues to audition for leading lady roles that exhibit her many other positive attributes. “I am trained in scene combat and always book action roles, but would love to explore something more light-hearted and fun some day!” she said.
The latest online buzz suggests that Sams would be perfect for one role in a particular, a superhero who possesses many mirroring qualities to the actress. The role of Wonder Woman, an enduring, alluring and physically superior idol, is one that online Comic Con fans continue to nominate Sams for.
“My motto in life is: preparation plus opportunity equals success,” said Sams. “Be prepared to work long hours. Be persistent and do whatever works for you; you need to be able to think outside the box. Your success really all depends on you and how far you’re willing to push.”
Sams also speaks Italian, French, Greek and English. She took courses in Psychology at Columbia University after having transferred credits over from McGill University. Currently, she continues maintain relationships with the talent development department of major networks in both New York and Los Angeles. Her favorite things in life include spending time with family and keeping Greek traditions alive, especially through cooking Greek cuisine.
“Cooking and maintaining traditions through Greek food is so important to me,” she said. “To me, food is a symbol of love.”
Sams is always thrilled when she’s able to bring her love of food and family together, either when visiting Canada to spend time with her mother Vicky Ikonomou, a CEO of a medical tech company or her father, Theodoros, who lives in Florida and owns a Greek diner. She also loves spending time with cousins from her father’s side of the family who live in Astoria, Bayside and parts of New Jersey.
“My cousin Dino Siamas has been in the night life industry here in Manhattan and Astoria and is always doing something impressive,” Sams said.
Though always preferring to keep her personal life under wraps, Sams did emphasize the importance of commitment in her life and offered some insight into who and what means most to her. “Family is my number one priority,” said Sams. “My love charm is BSF. My prized possessions are Lucky, and CJF & JAF.”
Though there haven’t been any formal announcements made regarding whether Sams landed the role of Wonder Woman on the big screen, her family and friends will always know her as “our Xenaki.” For the rest of Greek America, she will remain our Wonder Woman.
Actress Xen Sams
Photograghy (including cover): Steven Crawford
Makeup & Styling: Chris Lanston
Hair: Crewshair360 using Serge Normant
Hair, Makeup and production assistant: Monique Newsome
CLOTHING PROVIDED BY: Scarlet Poppy Arte, Armani, Zara and Prada