Jay Ellis Talks His Crush On Tatyana Ali, Stereotypical Black Roles & His Dating Rules
When our longtime favorite show, “BET’s The Game” switched up the formula, got rid of a few old favorites and added some new blood, we all stopped and took notice. We had to, the new character Blue was Ivy League educated and very, very very easy on the eyes. Now, we know that Blue is played by actor Jay Ellis. Naturally, we’re curious to know about the man behind the character so recently in an exclusive interview with Mr. Ellis we asked him how he, an military brat got into acting and broke the news of his ambitious dreams to his very practical parents. We talked about challenges within the industry, his thoughts on blacks playing slave or subservient roles and lastly how his dating life has changed since he’s gotten the exposure from the show.
On Wikipedia, it says your name is Wendell Ellis Jr. How did you come upon Jay?
I’m a Jr. so everyone called me Little Wendell and we were at a family reunion and I just flipped out. I don’t know what it was but one of my cousins teased me about something and I just literally lost it. I’m like ‘I’m not little! I’m not little anymore and you better not call me little!” To go with that, I have one of the highest voices you could ever imagine. So after that everyone stopped calling me little Wendell. After my flip out, after a few of my aunts, grandmother and cousins looked at me like I was crazy, they started calling my Wendell Jr. then it got to Wendell J and then Jay just stuck by the time I got to high school. It’s been Jay ever since.
You come from a military family, how did your parents receive the news that you wanted to be an actor.
I actually started acting and they saw me on television. And that’s how they found out that I was acting. They saw me in a commercial. And then they called me and said, ‘Your cousin said he saw on a commercial. Is that you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I booked this Lexus commercial.’ And my dad said, ‘Oh, that’s good! Well how much you get paid for something like that?’ So I kind of explained to them that I had been in class for the last couple of years and I was doing it on the side and I wanted to see what I could do with it. In reality, I was doing it every single day. It was my full time job. Once they actually understood the process of auditioning and booking a job, once they understood the full process, they were on board a hundred percent.
Formerly, in the service, they’re very salt of the earth people, very analytical people. They’re not the people you tell you’re going to go chase your art dream. So for me I wanted to have a level of success before I told them. I wanted to be proud of it and I wanted to show them this is what I’ve done and this is what I can do.
Speak about the challenges of the industry, do you feel like you’ve been able to avoid those in your career?
Definitely think it’s challenging. There’s not enough of us on tv. There’s not enough of our story out there. And not only for black actors but people of any ethnicity to be honest with you. We don’t live in a world that is all one color so hen you see things like that, then we can find anyone to identify with. And as an actor, there’s less jobs out there. So it’s difficult and it’s fight always. There’s typically only one black person in a project, or one Latin person or one Asian person in a project. I think things are opening up with works like 12 Years a Slave and The Butler. And I think the industry has to take notice of that and start to write us in more, think about us more.
A few black actors have come out and said they’re tired of “slave movies” or roles where blacks are subservient. What do you think about those type of projects? Would you shy away from accepting one of those roles?
I think we need to do our history justice first. And not to say first as if we can’t do anything else but I think we need to do our history justice. These are stories and part of real life that hasn’t been put on screen and they haven’t been told then yeah, I think they should be out there. This is part of our history it’s part of our culture that a lot of our culture doesn’t even know. I do think those things should be out there so we can see what our ancestors went through, what our grandparents went through. I think it makes us stronger as people and all races actually. It makes us stronger and less ignorant or tolerate. And yeah, I do think there need to be black doctors and black astronauts, I absolutely agree. Those roles should be out there as well. But you wouldn’t tell someone not to Casesar. You wouldn’t tell someone not to do Lincoln. So why would we not have our history on the big screen as well.
Your twitter is full of inspirational quotes. What do you do or reflect on to maintain balance in the industry and life in general?
I think one of the things that keeps me going day to day is being happy in the life that I’m in. I’m happy with family, my friends and my career. And I’m happy that I am a part of something that reaches so many people, hopefully in a positive way, hopefully in an inspirational way. Sometimes it’s just that one little bright spot, that one little word of encouragement or that one little bit of inspiration that changes someone’s day or week or outlook on life even. And so, to be a part of that for me is really amazing. And I don’t think about it so much being a part of it as much as I’ve just really received how many people are affected by it.
In 2012, there was a bit of backlash about the show’s characters, particularly the women, being stereotypical. How do you feel about the show’s characters?
I think that what you have in the women on our show are three very different women who are slices of real life to some degree. A single mother who didn’t necessarily have every opportunity handed to her but has still survived and has done proud by her family. And her heart and her intent are in the right place usually. And so she is going to fail, we all do.
I think you see true love or young love and what that looks like. It’s not easy for people to be vulnerable every single day. And I think that our writers try to go and tackle those issues, those sensibilities and those vulnerabilities that are real life and a lot surface television doesn’t cover. I think for everything you see on screen, you also have to think what is going through that person’s mind and what has brought them to that point or to that decision and i think when you start to look at these characters in that way, you see it’s not just the words on the page, it’s the life that the characters have led that influence them to make their decisions.