Meet the Greek actor starring alongside Noel Clarke and Ashley Walters as Bulletproof S2’s formidable crime kingpin.
Guns are raised. Panic is in the air. A car pulls up amidst a meeting gone wrong. A man steps out, and immediately the tone shifts. Introducing Alex Markides, a brand new character in Sky One’s buddy cop show, Bulletproof, which returned for its highly-anticipated second season debut this week, and follows Noel Clarke and Ashley Walters as London detectives Bishop and Pike.
The second season sees the pair traverse unfamiliar and dangerous waters as they tackle their biggest case yet, going undercover in a million pound drug deal, taking them from London to Cyprus to Amsterdam.
The all-seeing eye at the root of it all is the notorious and illusive Alex Markides, the quietly simmering head of a Greek Cypriot crime family with worldwide connections that pose a threat to internal security.
Markides is played by the buzzy Greek actor, Stavros Zalmas, who swiftly rose to recognition in Greek theatre, and also made waves starring in Constantine Giannaris’s acclaimed arthouse film, North of Vortex.
We caught up with Zalmas and talked about family, filming, and hitting Noel Clarke with a metal pipe (yes, you heard right)…
So will you tell us how you first got involved with the show?
My agent had sent me an email saying that the production of Bulletproof II was looking for a Mediterranean actor around my age. After that, I was keeping an eye on my incoming emails, but I didn’t find anything relevant. Three days later I had the idea to check my junk mail and I saw an email from my agent with details about the audition, some elements about Alex’s character and the whole two first scenes of the series, this happened on the Friday night and the casting director needed the self tape back by Sunday.
I started to study and get prepared for the audition like crazy and managed to send the tape before the deadline. Two days later the production asked for more footage, so we sent them links from some of my previous work. Two days later the Bulletproof production asked me to audition in London and that’s what I did. I came to London at the Vertigo films building. The producer, the owner of Vertigo Films, one of the script writers, the director, and one of the leading actors were in the room. It was an unforgettable, strong and difficult experience, but by the time I left the room, I knew that I had taken the role.
Tell us about your character Alex Markides…
Alex Markides comes from Cyprus, he is in his late fifties, and he is the head of the family. Level-headed and loyal, he commands the Markides business and property empire in a way that he has earned the respect of the criminal society and tries to keep the business activities under the police’s radar. He is graceful, elegant and cool with an air of legitimacy and mystery, but deep inside he is still the same man who fought and struggled when the family first moved to London. Alex is a very dangerous and tough criminal, capable of murder. He is old school, an old fashion criminal and because of that he feels that he needs to have some morals and some principles.
What was the biggest challenge about playing someone like Alex?
The biggest challenge in playing Alex was to meet the expectations of the producer, director and my fellow cast mates. They were very well prepared, they know what an action film requires and it was a challenge for me when I had to get involved in the physical scenes. I remember when we were in Amsterdam and we were shooting the chasing scenes over and over again – Noel, Ashley and I had to run around Amsterdam’s canals for more than seven hours. At the end of the day I was exhausted and my muscles were in an awful condition. There was another time where during an action scene I had to hit Noel very hard with a metal pipe. It was an interesting experience because I am not used to doing these kind of scenes but thankfully there was a stunt coordinator so I was perfectly instructed and everything went great.
Did you do anything to get into character more, or how did you research, or were there any famous film crime families you used an inspiration?
First of all I have some experience in playing such roles, but on the other hand, all of us have watched very famous movies about the mafia so there are more than enough elements available that an actor can use in accordance with his personality. But in my opinion the raw material for all actors is the script itself. Everything that an actor needs in order to build the character he is asked to play has to be in the script and in this case the script writers did an excellent job. It is an interesting, strong and beautiful human story, which can be potentially true.
It’s a world where family is really important. Is this the case for you?
I strongly believe that most people need to have a family. Even most wild animals do. The existence of the family and the quality of the bonds that develop within it are the core of each society. We can easily observe that most people who don’t have a family or have somehow lost it go on to create such strong bonds with their friends, that their friends become family for them – I belong to this part of society.
Where were the strongest parallels between you and your character, and where were the biggest gaps?
I have to say that what the character and I have in common is the sense of morality and appreciation of friendships and family values. It is obvious that despite his illegal business he is a person that mostly values his family and the people he trusts and respects. In addition he is a man of justice. Although he does what he does, he tries to be fair.
Regarding the gaps, I would have to say that I could never do what he does. I mean that he poisons our society by providing people with drugs and harmful substances and risking his freedom everyday. I also have to highlight the fact that he doesn’t value life enough, even his own life as he plays with the notion of death every day and he has found a way to live with that while staying calm and focused.
What was your favourite part of filming?
I have to admit that this is a hard question as it is not easy to choose. However, I think that the times my character – who is this tough and dangerous criminal – was getting sentimental and vulnerable were the moments and scenes that were highly creative and enjoyable for me.
What’s next for you?
For the first time in my career I will be directing a theatrical production in Athens which I also have the main part in. I am obviously very excited for Bulletproof II to be released. Working on the series with all those talented people, traveling from Athens to London almost every week for six months, visiting Amsterdam and Malta for the shoot was an unforgettable experience. I love working abroad doing film and television and after Bulletproof II, I’m looking forward to new opportunities that lie ahead.
Sky original Bulletproof S2 will air on 20th March on Sky One and NOW TV