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When it comes to both acting and modelling, what I always seek is to defy expectation. My "brand" is very much thinking outside the box. I love to discover that unusual tactic in a scene. When I played Richard III, I dyed my hair Lannister blonde and focused not on his villainous traits, but what makes him relatable and human. He was not a villain to me, merely someone righting (in his mind) the injustices of the world.
Ellis, what are your passion and aspiration in life? How did you start as Actor?
I always hate when people say "I always knew I wanted to be an actor", I don't think that's true. Children don't understand what that entails, the work, the discipline. No, as a kid I wanted to be a wizard. And when I realised there is no such thing as magic, I wanted to the next best thing: to play someone who had magic. It's a terrible reason to go into acting, but it's an honest one.
Who is your inspiration in life Ellis? How do you stay inspired as an Actor?
The fortunate thing is there are centuries of plays, of roles. You can never be bored, as long as you always seek a new challenge. I don't like playing it safe; you never grow from safe. You never learn from safe. On principle I never work with the same company more than three times, because if they've rehired you twice, you get along, you have a working simpatico. But the cruel irony is, as joyous as that is, that also means you are comfortable with each other, and people who are comfortable never push the boundaries or try to impress as much as when you are proving yourself to a new director. For example, this year I was Paris in "Romeo and Juliet" and (with the director's blessing) gave Paris a stutter. I'd never done one, but I wanted to add that uncertainty, while also presenting a Paris outside-the-box (which is my brand). It's a risk, but one that gave me both a new skill and allowed me to show an entirely new side to Paris that audiences would not have seen.
We all make mistakes Ellis; we wish we could take back. What was the mistake you made in the past that you wish you can take back?
Oh. While I've made mistakes, I'd never take them back. We grow from failure as much as success; we learn from mistakes. I like the person I've become, and if I start removing regrets, I would also begin removing the growth. And that's never a good thing (in my opinion). I once described that very question by a friend as "let's not tug the tapestry too hard for that errant thread"; but I think that made me sound rather egotistical. HA!
Ellis, How do you describe yourself in terms of working with clients?
I love collaborating. Everyone has something to teach you; everyone has their gift to learn from, and it's foolhardy not to think even the newest to the field can't still surprise you. And every time you work with someone new, it's a new point-of-view, a unique chance to see an idea from another angle. And the same is true in reverse (I hope). Judi Dench didn't create her Lady Macbeth in a vacuum; it was the collaboration with Trevor Nunn that made it one of the defining performances of Shakespeare.
Please tell us, Ellis, how do you prioritise work, social life, friends, and family?
I'm a workaholic. When I'm not acting, I'm booking a modelling shoot, or auditioning, or researching new companies. It doesn't stop. It's a double-edged sword, I love my work, I'm privileged to be in a career I adore, but because I love it, I can't switch off from it. If I'm not actively doing it, it's on my mind. There is no off button. My husband often has to remind me to take a break and play Zelda. I occasionally acquiesce to his demand.
Ellis, please give us an example of a time when you were able to persuade someone to see things your way at work successfully.
When I was cast as Caliban in "The Tempest", I was adamant I wanted to base him on a meerkat. The character had a very specific way of talking too, his broken speech is an intentionally front to Prospero, and I wanted to go for broke. I was up on my hind legs, swinging my robed tail... clicking my tongue, and snaking my head. It was awesome. And worked, which was a relief. When a director lets you go for it... you need to deliver.
Ellis, please tell us about your proudest professional accomplishment as an Actor.
I did this beautiful one-person show in Bath called "Facehugger"; the most profound play about coming out, and the criminal abuse gay men are receiving in Chechnya. It was a colossal amount of lines, and emotions switching on a dime. You don't get a moment to breathe, because the second you drop that ball the magic is gone. I'd never felt so completely alone on stage, knowing I have no-one to rely on but myself, and yet that exhilaration night after night when it was done... when I knew for the entirety of that play I entertained them, moved them, enchanted them with my performance. It's the best thing I've ever done (and certainly the hardest).
Ellis, please give us an example of a time you were able to be creative with your work. What was exciting or difficult about it?
Oh gosh. I find the relationship between model and photographer is very difficult to compartmentalise. They must receive so many messages from models, that you have to come to them with a great concept for a shoot. A fully realised idea that will excite them. But then when you get there... your idea has to, by the very nature of the medium, become theirs. It's through their creative eye the photo happens, you are the inspiration, but they are the one shaping the narrative. It's very different from acting in that regard.
What advice would you give to the people who want to be successful as an Actor?
The best way to grow and learn is to do it. Take any role when you're starting, student films, amateur theatre, anything. Even a role you fail at will help you understand your craft because next time you know what not to do. Some of the biggest 'walls' I broke through in acting were not when I had the lead roles or the characters I delivered best, but the ones where I had to push myself to shine. Where I had to reinvent how I think, to understand what makes them work, never play it safe. No-one becomes an actor because it's easy.
Three photographers: Alex Millichamp, Darren Pickersgill and Andrew Miller