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April 02, 2014

Best in Row: Peter Gadiot

Once Upon A Time in Wonderland's genie, Peter Gadiot, relies on hard work, not magic, to bring awareness to an important cause.

Ann Farmer
  • Peter Gadiot

Peter Gadiot may play a genie on ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, but he didn’t rely on supernatural abilities when he rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean 4 years ago.

“It was a brutal, mechanical existence,” says Gadiot, who, with 11 others, rowed a small craft from the Canary Islands to Barbados in early 2010, to raise awareness and funds to combat human trafficking and other forms of modern-day slavery.

“I wanted to do something for other people,” explains the British actor, who organized the arduous endeavor shortly after he graduated from Drama Centre London and before his 1st television break.

While he made his debut in the British comedy series My Spy Family, American audiences know him best from Wonderland. With his fetching mop of curly hair, he plays Cyrus, a dashing genie that Alice, in a twist on the old Lewis Carroll tale, loves.

When he auditioned, he recalls, “what I wanted to know is, what is a genie?” He’s still not entirely sure. Perhaps even more puzzling is that his role requires him to act opposite imaginary animated characters.

“You have to play it to thin air,” he says, since the animation gets edited in later.

Still, playing a genie must be much easier than rowing to the other side of the world.

During that trip, Gadiot alternated 2 hours of sleep with 2 hours of rowing for the entire 39 days. At one point, the tiller broke and they risked capsizing. “That was hair-raising,” he admits.

Afterward, to further the anti-slavery cause, he ran a 250-kilometer ultra-marathon in the Sahara Desert and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. “If I’m going to do it,” he says, “I’m going to do it hard.”

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