From starring in the Oscar-nominated “Top Gun: Maverick” to directing his own projects, Jay Ellis is living his dreams and trying to open doors for a new generation of Black creatives in Hollywood.
Actor Jay Ellis has been on a winning streak. After completing the fifth and final season of HBO’s hit series “Insecure,” he co-starred in the $1.4 billion global blockbuster hit, “Top Gun: Maverick.” The sequel to the 1986 film “Top Gun” managed to score six Oscar nominations.
“Blessings on blessings and blessings,” Ellis tells theGrio of his journey, during an interview on the red carpet of the 95th Academy Awards. “I feel super fortunate. I’ve had peak TV experiences and peak film experiences back to back, and I’ve been fortunate to work with people that I love from creative teams to casts to studios.”
The good fortune has been well-earned for Ellis. The South Carolina native left a career in modeling to pursue acting and earned a breakout role in BET’s “The Game,” created by producer Mara Brock Akil, back in 2013. He’s been hitting milestones ever since, nabbing an NAACP Image Award for his portrayal of the character Lawrence in Issa Rae’s popular series “Insecure,” making his directorial debut on the show, and even getting a recent executive producer credit on Netflix’s “Black Box” movie. In 2022, he got married in Italy to actress Nina Senicar, with whom he shares a daughter. This year he co-starred in the rom-com “Somebody I Used To Know,” available on Amazon Prime Video.
“It’s a wild ride. This is all you could dream about when you get in this industry, and to actually have it happen is crazy,” Ellis tells theGrio. “I just think about going to work, I have always been a person to put my head down and chase the thing that I’m passionate about.”
Now with “Top Gun” in his acting credits, Ellis is part of the No. 1 film of 2022 and the No. 6 highest-grossing film in domestic box-office history, according to Variety Magazine. The movie, which also stars actor and producer Tom Cruise, was completed in 2019 but delayed multiple times due to COVID-19.
Ellis credits Cruise for being a mentor and plans to keep passing the baton as he climbs.
“One of the things I feel like is part of my platform or what I was born to do is to also, like, turn around, reach a hand back and bring somebody along with me,” Ellis tells theGrio.
“Mara Brock Akil gave me an opportunity. Issa Rae gave me an opportunity. Tom Cruise gave me an opportunity. There’s plenty of people in my life who have given me an opportunity to, like, step up and show what I can do. And I feel like I just want to be able to do the same.”
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