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- “I may have been your wife before, but those days are over, and I'm just your attorney now. I'm here on business, not to socialize with you as a friend. You're really teetering on the edge, Robert. Just make sure you don't fall off the cliff.”
- ―Irene to Robert
Irene Vasilakis, Esq. is a supporting character in the Big Hero 6 universe. She is a Greek-American criminal defense attorney, former wife of roboticist Robert Callaghan, and mother of Abigail Callaghan. Though she divorced Robert prior to the events of the film, she finds herself assigned to Robert's criminal case following his attacks on San Fransokyo as Yokai.
She is portrayed by actress Ashley Judd.
Irene Callaghan was born Irene Vasilakis (Greek: Ειρήνη Βασιλάκης, Eiríni Vasilákis) in Los Angeles to conservative Greek-American parents. Her father was a priest and Christian teacher while her mother was a Greek musician; therefore, Irene learned to play the bouzouki from her mother at a young age. Raised a Greek Orthodox with her two brothers and three sisters, Irene was the only one of her siblings to reject Greek culture to the point where she'd refuse to attend church on Sundays. She refused to speak Greek at home, would try to convince her siblings to do the same (much to her parents' dismay), and would always correct her parents when they referred to her as "Eirini" (Ειρήνη) – her Greek name – by asking them to call her "Irene", the English equivalent. Growing up as a tomboy, Irene disliked her parents' traditional ideals and valued her own identity and freedom. It is implied that her attitude caused a deep rift to form between her and her family.
Not much else is known about Irene's personal background and history, as she chooses to keep her past to herself. She eventually left her parents and siblings behind in Los Angeles to study law at Yale Law School, later settling in Massachusetts to work for her uncle Mark's law firm, Vasilakis, Rainer, as an associate attorney for some time. In Hilo, Hawaii during a vacation, a young Irene met Robert Callaghan, then an aspiring soldier in the Marines. The two eventually fell in love with one another, with Robert and Irene maintaining a long-distance relationship during his travels with the Marines. Robert later resigned from the military to settle in San Fransokyo with Irene. He revived his childhood passion for robotics and engineering while Irene became an attorney and lawyer. The couple then had one daughter, Abigail.
As a Mother
As Robert's contributions to the scientific world grew, so did Irene's significance in the political world. With his rise to fame as an esteemed roboticist and theorist, he found himself having little time to care for young Abigail. Irene faced the same issue, as she was always too busy in her latest court cases and trials to watch over her daughter. Because of this, Abigail was often left at home with a strict babysitter while Robert and Irene worked furiously in their respective careers. Without her parents around, Abigail developed a rather tomboyish and spunky spirit, leading to her learning to manipulate and deceive her guardian in order to gain freedom from her iron grip. With a sense of resentment for Irene's and Robert's "bad parenting" and the excessive recognition the family received, she would sneak out of the Callaghan penthouse to explore the city. She later found herself in the slums of San Fransokyo in the midst of a bot fight: a hobby she would later come to find herself reveling in. Robert once mentioned that Abigail inherited her "spunky and fiery personality" from Irene.
- “Juggling the duties of being a mother, a wife, and a lawyer have not been easy for Irene Callaghan. Formerly married to roboticist-turned-criminal Robert Callaghan and the mother of Krei Tech pilot Abigail, Irene is respectable and revered in her own right. One of the leading criminal defense attorneys in all of the United States, she unexpectedly finds herself encountering Robert in the most ironic place possible – in court.”
- ―Irene's official description
- “Well, never in a million years would I have guessed that I'd see your face negatively in the news. What's more surprising is the fact that I'm seeing you here in court as a client. Hello, Robert. It's nice to see you again.”
- ―Irene to Robert
- “What, so you left me as a kid to take care and fend for myself, but now you think you have the right to call me your daughter?”
- ―Abigail to Irene
Abigail and Irene have always been on awkward and tense terms with one another, with the former despising the latter for her "terrible parenting" during her childhood. Though Abigail has always held her father in higher regard than her mother due to the deeper bond Robert established with her, Irene still cares for her daughter, nevertheless. It wasn't until Robert's obsessive desire to "get Abigail back" that Irene left the man out of anger due to his changed behaviour and excessive talk about their seemingly lost daughter. Unlike Robert, Irene was able to cope with Abigail's "passing" pretty well, eventually returning to her routine life after few weeks of mourning.
- Her early developmental stages had her portrayed as first Polish (as Marlena Kazmierczak), then Georgian (as Irine Petriashvili).
- She reverted to her maiden name, Vasilakis, after divorcing Robert. Some official documents still have her name written as Irene Callaghan, however.
- Irene speaks fluent English and can understand Greek to some extent, but she cannot speak, read, or write in it.
- Irene is now a cultural Christian and atheist due to Robert's irreligious influence on her as a young adult.
- The couple raised Abigail as an atheist.
- Her name is derived from the Ancient Greek word εἰρήνη (eirḗnē) meaning "peace".
- She used to visit Greece with her family every summer, but found the trips boring and frustrating (her Greek was not developed enough to fully listen in to her relatives' conversations).