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Jay Ellis: I thought I was going to be the Fresh Prince

Larry King NowAug 23 '17

‘Insecure’ star Jay Ellis is all candor as he remembers his beginnings in Hollywood – including the misguided belief that he’d be an overnight success – and how he finally got his break.

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Larry King: Now, you moved to LA in 2004…

Jay Ellis: Yeah.

Larry King: But didn’t get your first big role until 2013.

Jay Ellis: Yeah.

Larry King: So you went through 9 years of what, jumping to audition to audition?

Jay Ellis: A little bit. Like, I got here, and I thought I was going to be the Fresh Prince! Like I just thought somebody was going to be like “Hey man, where you been? We got a show for you, what took you so long to get here?”. I went and got a job working at Equinox when it was below Endeavor --

Larry King: Oh yeah --

Jay Ellis: Before William Morris and Endeavor did the merger, and I thought, if I’m at this gym below this agency everyday, some agent is gonna see me and be like “Man, we’ve been here waiting for you, where have you been? We’ve got three movies and a tv deal, you’re the guy, where have you been?” And it was far from that. I was making 8.25 an hour giving out towels and locker room keys at 5 o’clock in the morning. Most agents were like this (mimics texting) not even looking up, and they’d be like “yep, thank you” and they’d turn around and go the other way. And then I got this opportunity - I bumped into an agent at a party and he sent me out on a bunch of auditions and I was just miserable...I was looking directly into the camera for every single audition, casting directors were laughing at me- it was horrible. I pray none of that stuff ever comes out. And finally, he calls me one day and he’s like “Listen, this isn’t going to work out, we’re going to drop you,” and I was like okay, well I didn’t want to be a starving artist anyway! Who wants to just drive across Los Angeles all day, auditioning and getting told no, and I’m getting parking tickets that I can’t even pay for with my 8.25 an hour salary, my car has a boot on it and there’s no uber back then...so, I just got a day job and started working. I spent the next 4 and half, 5 years just working...and always wanting to be in the business…

Larry King: So how’d you get the break?

Jay Ellis: I was working a job, my boss called me, I was the only person she hired and she was like, “I just got let go, you’re probably going to get let go. I’m just giving you a heads up so you can go look for another job. Call a recruiter and look for another job.” And, I all could think about was, all I ever wanted to do was act. I moved to LA to act. I wanted to do it as a kid, but was too afraid to do it because I was a basketball player, and those worlds didn’t cross. And so, I just decided that I was going to sacrifice and do whatever it took. So I gave myself like to 2-3 years…

Larry King: What happened?

Jay Ellis: I moved deep into the valley, I lied to my parents for 2 years and told them I was going to work every single day, I got an acting class non-stop, I booked a couple of commercials, I got an agent, I booked a co-star, I booked a guest star, I tested for a pilot...I auditioned 8 times for ‘The Game’ and I booked ‘The Game’ on BET, and did that for the next 4 years, 4 and a half years. And then left that, and somehow Issa, and Prentice, and HBO were somehow crazy enough to give me a job.

Larry King: Watch new episodes of “Larry King Now” Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on demand on Ora TV and Hulu.