Birmingham News (AL)
'24' fans may not know his name, but they know Adoni Maropis' face
TELEVISON The father came to Los Angeles to visit his middle son, who, after years of being the struggling actor, had just hit the jackpot on one of the hottest shows on TV.
Petro Maropis, the proud papa, wanted to take his son Adoni to dinner to celebrate. Adoni, who hasn't forgotten the lean times, chose an Italian place where he had a coupon for a few dollars off.
All throughout the meal, though, strangers kept coming up to their table to get a picture of or an autograph from the younger Maropis, who, since January, has played the ultranasty Muslim terrorist Abu Fayed in Season Six of the popular Fox ticking-clock thriller ''24.''
When it came time to pay the tab, Maropis reached for his coupon and sheepishly asked his dad if they should use it. His father said no. ''That's the price you pay for being a celebrity,'' he told his son. ''You can't bring out that coupon now. Your mother is going to be mad, but just keep it. Or sell it on eBay.''
Almost everywhere he goes these days, the athletic, steely-eyed Maropis gets the same reaction. First, a double take. Then, an ''Oh, yeah.'' ''Do you know who this guy is?'' they say. ''That's Fayed from '24.''' ''Fayed Fanatics,'' Maropis fondly calls them. The 43-year-old Maropis is as gracious about his newfound notoriety as the sadistic Fayed is evil. ''I'm no better than anybody else,'' he says. ''It's just about being nice to people, and if somebody asks me for an autograph, I'm flattered by that. I hope I never get to the point where I shoo people away.''
To portray Fayed, who once tortured a hostage with a power drill bit through the shoulder, Maropis draws on a real-life experience that happened to his father in 1973. Returning to America after a trip to his native Crete, Petro Maropis took shrapnel in his legs and back during a terrorist attack by the Palestine Liberation Organization at the Athens airport. ''I remember hating the Palestinian people,'' the younger Maropis says. ''I remember wanting to kill everybody. I was this 10-year-old kid with all this hatred. ''And my dad sat me down and said, 'Don't hate those people. I understand their plight. It's not right what the PLO did. Those guys need to be punished. They need to be stopped. But I understand where they are coming from.'''
So Maropis knows what makes Fayed tick. And even though Fayed is the mastermind behind a series of nuclear attacks on the United States, Maropis considers his character not a terrorist but a freedom fighter. To him, Jack Bauer, the Counter Terrorist Unit operative played by ''24'' star Kiefer Sutherland, is the terrorist. ''You have to love this character to understand where he's coming from,'' Maropis says. ''He's been hurt. He's angered. Jack Bauer has tortured my brother. Jack Bauer killed my brother. In my eyes, it's vengeance. I want him tortured. I want him dead. ''When I drive to the set, when I'm going to work with Kiefer, tears are welling up in my eyes because I'm thinking of all the things that he has done to my brother.''
For Maropis, who previously guest-starred on ''Walker, Texas Ranger'' and ''NYPD Blue'' and had supporting roles in the movies ''Troy,'' ''Hidalgo'' and ''The Scorpion King,'' this is his second go-around on ''24.'' In Season 4, he played a shop owner who got caught in the crossfire, but the scene was cut. Otherwise, he never would have gotten the chance to play Fayed. ''It was a great scene, and I had told everybody about it,'' Maropis says. ''But it didn't work for the show. It didn't move the show along the way they wanted it to. ''They cut the scene, and, it turns out that this twist of fate turned out to be the most incredible thing for me so I can come back and play this part this year.''
The middle son of three boys, Maropis grew up in Pittsburgh, where he excelled at basketball and tennis and kept his family howling with his dead-on im- personations of Richard Nixon and Flip Wilson. After he earned a business degree at West Virginia University, it was his father who encouraged him to pursue acting. ''He said, 'Well, I can see your two brothers going to work every day wearing a suit and tie, but you, I think it would choke you to death,''' Maropis recalls. ''He said, 'You're always performing. Why don't you try acting?''' So Maropis enrolled at Pittsburgh's Park Point College, where he studied acting, singing, voice and dance. ''I took ballet,'' he recalls. ''Imagine, Fayed in tights.''
In 1988, with the help of his younger brother, Chris, whom Maropis calls ''my guardian angel,'' he drove to Hollywood. One of his first breaks came playing the sorcerer Quan Chi in the martial-arts fantasy series ''Mortal Kombat: Conquest.'' ''I've done all the odd jobs - waiter and messenger guy and that sort of thing,'' he says. ''But for the past 12 years, I've been an actor. ''I lived in these horrific places, (with) barred windows and barred patios. But suffering has helped. I felt like I was in prison and then I broke out of that.''
Up next for Maropis is the scifi series ''Bone Eater,'' in which he plays a Native American named Johnny Black Hawk. For now, though, he's relishing being the bad guy on ''24.'' ''This guy (Fayed), what makes him so scary is he is so real,'' he says. ''We all have the good, bad and ugly inside us. It's just where we choose to go. ''So I can go there and be evil, and then off the set, I'm a nice guy.''
THE OTHER SIDE OF FAYED
Actor Adoni Maropis offers some insight into the real person behind one of the nastiest villains on television.
On being diabetic: ''When I was 17 1/2 months old, I went into a diabetic coma. I wasn't supposed to make it past age 25. I was supposed to be sick, weak and in and out of hospitals my whole life.''
On staying in shape: ''It's like breathing to me. I do a very unusual workout. Last night, I came home late and I ran steps. Then I go inside and I do a gymnastic-type workout. I use the furniture and things like that. I haven't been to a gym in 12 years.''
On being funny: ''I was a silly, goofy guy that only my family and best friends really knew about. Now, I'll go to an audition and the casting director will say, 'We're doing this comedy.' And I'll say, 'I do comedy.' And they'll say, 'Yeah, yeah, right.'''
On impersonating Truman Capote: ''I love that Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Academy Award (for 'Capote'), but I could have played Truman Capote. I don't look like Truman, but I can talk like him and I could go there.''
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