Actor Spotlight: Jay Ellis
We sat down with actor Jay Ellis who plays Lawrence in HBO’s hit series, Insecure. The 35 year old actor shared with us the biggest inspirations in his career and the importance of having a social media presence as an actor.
How were you discovered?
I don't know if I was really "discovered." I kinda hustled my way through. I did casting workshops, tons of extra work, then I started meeting agents and managers. I got my first manager by telling him I was a better actor than whoever they just signed and I guaranteed I would book a job and work more than them. Haha. I was cocky as shit. But I knew I just needed a chance. Little by little I started working. My first big job came from Mara Brock-Akil on a show called The Game.
What was your first ever role as an actor?
I played a DJ in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Shot out to Shonda Rhimes.
Who’s your biggest inspiration in your career?
This question is always hard because there's so many. Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Idris Elba, Brad Pitt, Steve McQueen, Ryan Gosling, Sidney Poitier, Harrison Ford, Samuel Jackson, George Clooney, and that is just the men...I could go on for days.
And probably most important of all, fans!! I'm inspired every time I meet people who connect or relate with some character from a show or movie I've done. When someone tells me they've seen themselves on screen because of a character I've played, it is mind blowing. It makes the craziness of this industry worth it and makes me want to work harder and keep exploring.
What are you insecure about? or are you insecure about anything?
Isn't everyone? Whether we want to admit it or not? I think I've learned to be secure in my insecurities and just know that those things make me who I am and I'm good with that.
How are you and Lawrence similar?
I'd say we're both pretty ambitious and excited about our ideas and projects. Although we have pretty different ways at going after them. haha.
What was the craziest scene you had to shoot for Insecure?
There was a threesome scene in season two that was pretty crazy. Just a normal day at the office, butt naked in bed with two strangers and a bunch of cameras watching us for twelve hours. Ya know, your average Tuesday. I also shot some pretty crazy and very tech specific stunt scenes in the film, The Maze, that I just wrapped in South Africa.
Who’s your man crush or icon?
Brad Pitt. Will Smith.
What is your go-to look?
Jeans, t-shirt, and a great pair of sneakers or boots.
As an actor, you think it’s important to have a social media presence?
For me it's important because I love connecting with fans. I wouldn't be here without the people who watch and support everything I do and social media gives me the chance to connect with them. Sometimes one on one and sometime hundreds of thousands at once.
If you were not an actor, what would you be doing right now?
Finding a way to be Anthony Bourdain's assistant so I can eat and travel the world.
What’s your dream role?
I don't think there's just one. That's one of the reasons I love what I do. Yesterday it may have been a superhero, today it can be an icon from the past, and tomorrow it can be a regular guy. The list grows and evolves as I get further into my career, am exposed to more and read more.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
Know your craft. Study. Know actors, directors, writers, watch everything. Be a student and love it. Don't be afraid to fail and get used to hearing "no." Once you get used to it and learn to not take it personal, the journey becomes so much easier.