COVER STORY - Marie Avgeropoulos - We Will Survive Together
Marie Avgeropoulos may be a complete bad ass on CW’s 100, in her role of Octavia Blake, but in real life she is so much more! Well, maybe she is still a huge bad ass, but she has a ton of heart that she gives out along with it. This snowboarding Canadian, in addition to being proud to play such a strong woman on TV, is working towards making strong girls and women in India through Food For Life Vrindavan (FFLV), a nonprofit devoted to educating low-income girls in India. Marie has become one of the faces of FFLV through her YouTube documentary series she filmed with them. Please read further to learn more about Marie Avgeropoulos, FFLV, and how you can get involved!
You are Canadian. Are you based in the US these days or Canada?
I am indeed born and raised Canadian from the small town, Thunder Bay Ontario. I’m still living here, and loving it .
What inspired you to get into acting?
I always loved the arts. I was extremely infatuated with throwing myself into the mind of another character and telling a story. For me, it was very therapeutic. My family moved around a lot growing up, so I wound up in a ton of different schools. I was constantly the new kid, and got bullied to the point where I didn’t even attend my own high school graduation. It crushed me then, but acting in school plays at the time was a way for me to release the hurt and mentally dive into another being, even if it was brief until we had to run from drama class to math. It allowed me to forget what was going on in my life. I always felt better afterwards.
Jejune loves that you are a bit of a nature girl. What are some of your favorite outdoors activities?
For anyone that follows my IG @marieavgeropoulos it’s no secret I love to snowboard. I’ve been doing it since I was 15. I enjoy riding my motorcycle along the Pacific coast. I also learned how to fish at a young age. All my girlfriends and I back home go on crazy fishing trips, and dress up in funny 80’s wigs and outfits while doing it . Good fun.
Does this help you in your roll as Octavia Blake in the 100?
Well, it definitely has helped me not complain about the cold, rain, and bugs we often shoot in. Some of the days have been pretty extreme, but the weather helps set the tone for the survival aspect of the show.
Octavia is a total bad ass and leader. Do you resonate a lot with her character? Please elaborate.
I’m grateful that I have been given the opportunity to play a character that has evolved so much over the 7 years that we have been on the air. I have grown along with Octavia, and I feel in some ways we have learned from each other. She has pushed me to expand my craft, reminded me to be brave in the face of fear, and even sword fight on horseback! She's my muse. I feel lucky to play her, and she has evolved my craft a significant way.
It is very exciting to see more strong women in TV and films. How does it feel to play a character like this? Do you have any thoughts on this?
I feel very honored to play a strong woman, especially during this time in a world that has been typically ruled by men. It feels rewarding because I feel like I, along with the other wonderful actresses that are on the 100 and in television and film, are inspiring and most importantly empowering other young women as well.
Do you ever worry that the 100 will come true?
Every time I turn on the news, yes. Alarming!
Can you please tell us what Food For Life Vrindavan (FFLV), a nonprofit devoted to educating low-income girls in India, does??
FFLV educates poor girls in Vrindavan, empowering them to transform their lives and communities, through a service oriented approach, committed to integrity and excellence. On average - for every 100 girls in rural India only a single one finishes school. Many of the rest, sadly, are lost to Child Marriage, will never have the independence of choosing their own path, and are often forced into an adult role at a very early age against their will. However, through sponsorships, their future can look bright. The sponsorship program at the FFLV schools includes free meal distribution, cleaning, tree planting, organic farming, and a dynamic education that teaches the girls vocational skills that lead to their employment. FFLV schools even often employ the mothers to sew the uniforms for the girls, help aid the poverty line, and transform the community. I had the opportunity to film a documentary series that explains absolutely everything that a sponsorship includes. Have a look!
Do you have any stories you want to share from your time in India?
I was completely taken aback when I arrived to Vrindavin, India. From the smells, lack of garbage pickup, children running around not clothed, to the tents made up from cow dung and trash. It brought me to tears. During “kitchery” where we would feed the women in the community, that aren’t even involved in the school, it was heart wrenching to see some of these visuals - like a 3 year old holding her infant sibling for instance, begging for food. These people face many challenges.
Why is it so important that the girls are fed and offered healthcare through FFLV?
When a child is starving, it’s impossible for them to focus. Every morning, the girls are given a protein drink and breakfast filled with nutrients. The school has nurses, and provides medicine to ensure the girls can learn to their full abilities.
Can you talk a little bit about the issue of child marriages in India, and what can be done to stop this issue?
Child marriage is more common among poorer households, with many families marrying off their daughters to reduce their perceived economic burden. Girls are often married off at a younger age because less dowry is expected for younger brides. FFLV has a team of faculty that when a child disappears from school, the police are contacted to stop the wedding and speak to the girl’s family to encourage her to return to school. If a girl is educated, she is empowered and unstoppable. She can begin her career with the skills she has learned, and marry when she wants, if she wants, and when she wants.
What did you learn while you were in India?
I learned how small change can make a big difference in others lives. I learned that these people have such a beautiful culture, manage to still smile, and have such courage, regardless of the extreme poverty and conditions they live in. It motivated me to help this organization as much as I can. I have witnessed the tremendous amount of good it can do for these kids, and the community. It certainly reminded me not to sweat the small stuff, and certainly be grateful for my life in Canada.
Are you sponsoring a girl?
Yes! I started with one, and saw the difference from the updates I received from her, and that led me to sponsor many more. This process really works. When she joined the school, she could hardly speak, count, or do any of the skills most kids her age who attend school could. Her hair was blonde from malnutrition, while most Indian girls have dark brunette hair. Now she is thriving in school, her health is great, and she's at the top of her class. Even her mother has received employment at the school sewing uniforms, while previously she was begging at the church every day. It’s remarkable.
How can others get involved?
It’s easy . Visit www.fflv.org or watch the documentary listed in my bio @marieavgeropoulos to learn exactly how your small change can make a huge difference in a child’s life.