Chris Ellis always wanted to be an actor because of television. He grew up in the 50's in the deep south in a "world of privation and violence", but saw on television people who seemed to have lives of ease and priviliege.
"I was raised in the Mississippi delta, and my salient memories from early childhood are of children who were beaten and abused by adults or by other children." But, that's is not why he left.
On February 10, 1964, when Chris was 14 years old, The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. They sang "She Loves You," and "I Want To Hold Your Hand," which they had written, and "Til There Was You," which was written by Jerry Herman, who also wrote "Hello, Dolly."
Later in 1964, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were killed by member of the Ku Klux Klan near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Three of the confessed killers were tried for murder in Mississippi state court and were acquitted. One of the Klansmen, Terry Keeter, who was never charged with any crime, was, by 1968, working for the sheriff's department in Senatobia, Mississippi. That summer, he and his partner, Lekk Hopper, arrested Ellis for fishing without a license as he stood at the edge of Sardis Lake. "I have never been fishing in my life, though in 1968 my hair was long for a man by Mississippi standards."
These events helped him to decide to blow town altogether as soon as he might finish his schooling. Which he did, whistling 'Hey fiddle dee dee, the actor's life for me.'
It took him seven years to finish college however, because "I have always been shiftless". During those years Chris became involved in community theatre in Memphis, where "I did and do still think the quality of the work has always been quite good". By the time he moved to New York to seek his way amid the world's ruin, He had worked with many excellent actors in about two dozen plays, classical and contemporary. "I cannot imagine what might have supplanted that background for a newcomer in New York".
After working in regional theatre for a year or so, Chris fell off the radar screen, as some will do, and did not work for about ten years. During that time he lived in "bone-grinding poverty" in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen. In one 9 month period of 1987, Chris accepted 102 dinner invitations. "I don't know why they kept arriving, nor why I counted them, though I do know why I accepted them."
When Chris began working in film at age 40, he began for the first time to make a living as an actor. By then he was no longer in the flush of youth, and no longer had hair like "Algernon Swinburne, nor hips like two coconuts".
Since then Chris has made a living playing character roles, "mostly southerners, men who snarl and vote for Republicans, and who work for NASA in Mission Control".
But as he so readily tells us......."I'll take it."
I believe to be a working Actor is 50% luck! but when you get lucky, the other 50% is being ready.
To that end, I recommend reading at least one Shakespeare Play out loud each year (Try two or three - with friends or alone..... doesn't matter).
It won't help you get an agent, and nothing I can tell you will do that. But in no other one source, will you find such a complete range of human emotions, or better preparation.
Talent Agent Voice
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Representatives: Arlene Glucksman-Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Principal Don Bishop
Principal Matt Wasser
Judge Mitchell Ellis
Coach Jenks (as Chris Ellis Jr.)
Pastor Tim Bryant
Colonel Arnold Cassell
Warden Clinton Malton
FBI Director (as Chris Ellis Jr.)
L Donn Murray
Glen the Carousel Manager (uncredited)
Congressman Bruce Gelber
Scalvino (as Chris Ellis Jr.)
Reverend Ted Capistrano
Captain Ken Nilsen
Vice President - Grand Cayman Bank
Aces & Spades Bartender
Gunnery Sergeant John Deluca
Captain Samuel Littleton
Self-centered Man at Bus Stop
Special Agent Witkins
Mr. Blain - Zoning Board Chairman,
Construction Worker #2
Patriot Model Aeronautics Clerk
Commander Karl Vasich
Maynard Dupree / Henneman
Flight Director Walter Clark
B.O.P. Official Grant
Secret Service Agent Bill Erskine
Crowd Leader (segment "1996")
Security Guard #1
[a] Alan Zenuk - © USA Network
[b] © 1998 - Walt Disney Studios Touchstone
[c] Justina Mintz/AMC - © AMC Network Entertainment LLC
[d] Cliff Lipson - © 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc.