NEW YORK – Award-winning writer/director and active philanthropist Chris Jaymes has three decades in the entertainment industry, as an actor, director, and writer, and member of the Capitol Records recording artist band, Bootstraps. His impressive graphic novel Sons of Chaos, inspired by the Greek War of Independence, made a great impression in Greece at AthensCon this year. Jaymes spoke with The National Herald about the experience and about plans for participating in the bicentennial celebration of the Greek War of Independence in 2021.
TNH: What was the experience like at AthensCon and how was the response to Sons of Chaos in Greece? Had you been to Greece before?
Chris Jaymes: It was absolutely surreal and unlike anything I’ve experienced up to now in my life. I had come to Greece nine years prior to begin research for the book. I spent a significant amount of time driving from one side of the country to the other, quietly imagining what it might have been like during the uprising— climbing the hills of Zalongo, envisioning battles while walking through Gravia, trying to conceive what life might have been like, or what it might have been for a child born into the time of Revolution. But over the nine years that had passed since I had set foot in Greece, my mind had lived inside this reality the entire time and stepping off the plane and feeling the air and the visual sense of Athens hit me harder than expected. This anxious surge came over my body and shook me awake, reminding me that this was the whole point. This is where it all started and though I had been locked up alone for years far from here, this project somehow became a major portion of my adult life and definitely the most purposeful thing I’ve done so far. I actually teared up a bit walking out of the airport.
Each day seemed to outdo the previous one, as I met so many wonderful people. The kindness and support was unlike what I had experienced up to now. After visiting a number of the large U.S.-based conventions this year, San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic Con, Baltimore, and a few others, the experience was amazing but absolutely incomparable to the experience in Greece. Throughout the U.S., fans of comics appreciate the book, but in Greece the meaning of the book is something entirely different and the experience of AthensCon far exceeded everything because of that. Bringing an English-language graphic novel about 1821 to a comic convention in Athens is hard to beat. The founder of AthensCon Andreas Pefanis went out of his way in every direction to position the book in the best possible light and it worked. The book sold out the first day of the convention and immediately shot to the Best Seller category on Public.gr. It was shocking, but what was more shocking was the emotional reaction of the people who arrived after the book was sold out. The ongoing inquisitive nature and curiosity of those who came to visit me was surreal. I’ve done things throughout my life that garnered attention, but I’ve never done something that mattered to a country— or a people— and the amount of messages from strangers thanking me for caring about their history, appreciative of my efforts, the amount of hugs that I received from strangers over the course of the weekend was incomprehensible. I doubt I will ever be hugged by that many Americans in the whole of my existence. It was definitely one of the most validating moments in my life up to now and reminded me that there might actually be purpose in what I have done here.
TNH: How is the Greek version progressing?
CJ: We are working out the details now, but I can say that it is very close to beginning execution and is set for an October 2020 release.
TNH: What is the plan so far for your participation in the 200th anniversary?
CJ: The discussions have just started but it’s a mystery which plans will solidify. There are numerous projects in various stages, from a documentary series I would host that visits the regions and cities that had a major impact on the uprising and connecting with the people, looking at life 200 years after the revolution and to stimulate the awareness of certain forgotten places — also possibly putting a traveling caravan together that crosses the country bringing celebrations to each of these places. Some things we may create through our company, however while I was in Athens I was blessed to meet with some members from the Ministry of Culture who expressed interest in collaborating, and they’ve assembled a committee to oversee the Bicentennial Celebration so it seems like it may be an extremely eventful year and hopefully we can find ways of working together. Also, during the trip, the book was introduced to the Gennadius Library and the incredibly astute director Dr. Maria Georgopoulou and I are working on creating some kind of event as well. Still working out a number of things, but it seems to be coming more and more clear that Greece will be stuck with me far more than Los Angeles will be over the next couple years.
Author Chris Jaymes presented his graphic novel Sons of Chaos at AthensCon. Photo by Nick Lambrou
TNH: Are there any other projects coming up we can look forward to?
CJ: There are a number of things tied to the book that will be taking my focus for the next period of time. The Greek language version, working on rewriting a television version, the possible travel show focused on Greece 200 years after revolution, and a number of other things stimulated by the book. Outside of the book, I am still giving a lot of focused time on Marine Mammal and Ocean Conservation— The Ocean Aquarium is what it’s called and I explain it on my website ChrisJaymes.com if you are curious. But for the most part, I am on a mission, different than ever before and much of it is stimulated from my sentiment towards Greece. Everything that I do moving forward will be focused on serving a purpose that our world seems to need at the moment. There is a trending sentiment of polarization and a movement that is pushing towards isolationism and the building of borders. If we look through the course of time and the legacy of the Greeks, when the world was in chaos, in times of uncertainty, it was through unification that ideas and innovation surfaced. When impossible circumstances were present the Greek DNA somehow brought form and solutions by coming together. Throughout history, their moments of unity as a people brought much of the innovation that has held us together for hundreds or even thousands of years. It is this phenomena that we must inspire and reinvigorate to overcome the challenges we are facing globally. My intention is to stimulate that magic that the Greeks have actualized again and again throughout history and bring about a force of good through whatever means I may be blessed to conjure. We need each other to thrive now more than ever.
More information about Chris Jaymes is available online: chrisjaymes.com.
In the summer, Athens can sometimes seem like little more than a travel hub where tourists and diaspora Greeks from all over the world simply change planes for connecting flights or for transfers to the port of Piraeus for cruises or ferries to the islands.
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