'Manifest' Season 1: How star Athena Karkanis ditched the suits and guns for amazing Grace

Athena Karkanis played some extremely bold roles of unconventional women before she stepped up as the wife in NBC's show.


                            'Manifest' Season 1: How star Athena Karkanis ditched the suits and guns for amazing Grace

Athena Karkanis might not have been a household name for the regular American TV- viewer, but this actress has certainly played some real tough roles during her career. In fact, with creator Jeff Rake's 'Manifest' this is perhaps the first time that Karkanis has dropped off her suits and guns, and taken up some floral dresses, and mommy pants in order to play her character, Grace. Karkanis' Grace, in the NBC show, is the dejected wife of Ben Stone (Josh Dallas) who suddenly finds herself alone with her 10-year-old daughter, Olive (Luna Blaise), when Montego Air Flight 828 goes missing. Grace and Olive had boarded a different plane with the rest of the family while returning from Hawaii, but they soon found out that Flight 828 had mysteriously disappeared in thin air. 

Although as Grace, we mostly see Karkanis is either all tears or all smiles, this Canadian actress has actually played some rather unconventional roles. Born in Alberta and raised in Toronto, Karkanis has always been proud of her Greek-Egyptian ancestry, although now and then she has confessed that she speaks little Greek. Yet, she can fluently converse with anyone from Europe as she has mastered three European languages- French, Spanish, and German. She remains passionate about her dream to act in an European film as she was about the whole idea of acting, while still an undergrad student of political science in McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. 

Athena would have gone for a degree in Law but her passion kept her on the right track. (IMDb)
Athena would have gone for a degree in Law but her passion kept her on the right track. (IMDb)

She had initially planned on pursuing a Law degree, but luckily for us, the Greek beauty realized her real "Calling" and left for the field of acting. As she told a reporter from MetroNews Canada, “Acting was something that I always liked, but I never really thought of it as a career choice”.

It was not easy though. Her dusky skin, and jet black eyes, sheathed in those bold, beautiful curls made her quite the unconventional face in the industry. However, once again luckily, being a Canadian citizen, she soon managed to bag in roles which were the perfect fit for her newfangled beauty. After being a part of the Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York, Karkanis made her screen debut with the 2003 Canadian crime series, 'Missing' (originally titled '1-800-Missing').

Karkanis' career started off with some rather unconventional roles which perfectly suited her unique appearance. Here's Karkanis in  'Murdoch Mysteries'(IMDb)
Karkanis' career started off with some rather unconventional roles which perfectly suited her unique appearance. Here's Karkanis in  'Murdoch Mysteries'(IMDb)

Based on Meg Cabot's '1-800-WHERE-R-YOU' book series, the series is centered on Jess Mastriani, played by Caterina Scorsone, a woman in her twenties[1] who receives psychic abilities after being hit by lightning. After playing an otherwise small role on the show, she began to play a number of guest-starring, recurring and regular roles on Canadian television shows, following which she also played regular voice roles in 'Skyland', 'MetaJets', 'Wild Kratts', and 'Total Drama: Revenge of the Island'. However, it was not until the 'SAW' series, that Karkanis actually began to show off her talent as an actress, where she portrayed the role of Lindsey Perez in 'Saw IV' and 'Saw VI'. 



 

 

The suited special agent, unlike her partner Agent Strahm (Justin Louis), was a calm-natured sensible individual who was always eager to solve cases. Unfortunately, she was battered to death by Costas Mandylor's Hoffman, although Perez did die a dignified death. However, Karkanis soon returned on TV with an equally striking persona, when she was introduced as Dani Khalil on AMC's 2013 show, 'Low Winter Sun'. This was one character the actress thorougly enjoyed because Dani was similar to her in persona as both women do not endure any nonsense, and they share a similar love for Detroit. 

In the Canadian series 'Low Winter Sun', Karkanis truly showed off her skill. (IMDb)
In the Canadian series 'Low Winter Sun', Karkanis truly showed off her skill. (IMDb)

In an interview with AMC, the actress had stated, "It’s an interesting part because of how she plays into the whole fabric of the story. In terms of it being Detroit and her being Arab-American — it’s just an interesting time, given the post-9/11 climate. She’s a very non-stereotypical character, which I found was refreshing. " In fact, with Dani, Karkanis began to erase all stereotypes that are otherwise pretty heavily on Middle-Eastern characters. In the same interview, she had clarified, "A Chaldean must be Iraqi and must be Catholic, and my character is neither. In one of the episodes they were referring to my character as Chaldean and I was like, “Wait a minute, I thought she was Egyptian!...In Detroit, because there are so many Arabs across the board, they’re all called Chaldeans."

She also broke all stereotypes surrounding Middle Eastern characters. (IMDb)
She also broke all stereotypes surrounding Middle Eastern characters. (IMDb)

Before she would become a popular face across the US, Karkanis has had her own share of horror experience. In the sense, the actress had also starred in George A. Romero's 2009 horro film, 'Survival of the Dead'. She had confessed at the Toronto Film Festival, "That film was maybe one of the hardest I've ever done. It was six weeks, all exterior shoots, all night shoots - one was in a field of mud! In spite of all that, I had a wonderful time. I was somewhat intimidated by the idea of working with him at first. We met on the first day of shooting - he wasn't at my casting audition - but he was the warmest, friendliest guy. You feel good in his hands. You don't get the sense that he's a living legend at all. It's very refreshing, amazing that he's not jaded. He'd be up pulling all nighters with the rest of us, coffee and cigarette in hand."



 

 

Now she is playing the role of an American wife on NBC's record-breaking show, 'Manifest'. As Grace, although her character has been subjected to some useless hatred, Karkanis believes that the matriarch has a long way to go. The finale episode left us with the shocking news that Grace is pregnant and no one knows whose baby it is. While we do hope that will not create a barrier between her and Ben, we can only await for the show's renewal by NBC (or any other channel, if required).