Film & TV

Jay Ellis Discusses His Humble Beginnings As An Actor

"I had no idea what I was doing, but I was young and my ego told me I could do anything," said Ellis.

In a brief yet candid conversation with Issa Rae, Insecure’s Jay Ellis recounts the amusing story of how he became an actor.  

As destiny may have it, Ellis’s journey began through having a friend, Josh Henderson, who happened to be making strides as an actor. At a high profile party one night with Henderson, Ellis was approached by an agent who asked if he was an actor. “I’m like, yeah, of course I’m an actor. I ain’t took an acting class, I can’t tell you three words of a Tennesee Williams play, I don’t know nothing!” said Ellis. 

A meeting was later scheduled, which required Ellis to bring his resume and headshots. “I typed up every job I’ve had since I was a sophomore in high school. Old Navy, Athletes’ Foot, Smoothie King, all the modeling jobs I’ve had.” Having extensive experience with actors and the industry, the agent instantly knew that Ellis didn’t have a clue what he was doing after reviewing his resume. Yet he took a chance on him, and provided Ellis with the resources he needed. Because he was working a minimum wage job at the time, he couldn’t afford the acting classes or $350 headshots––yet with determination, he found ways to maneuver around the costs, such as hiring a photographer from Craigslist for a much cheaper price (Although he hopes those pictures never see the light of day). Instead of paying for acting classes, he audited them, which allowed him to take 20 classes for free. “So, I started going out on auditions and Issa, they’re so bad … I have no idea what I’m doing. But I was young, and my ego told me I could do anything.” 

Evidently, Ellis’s years of fortitude and persistence, while also utilizing the classic adage of “faking it until you make it,” has worked in his favor. We love a humble beginning!


To listen to the entire conversation with Jay Ellis and Issa Rae, and gain access to more exclusive content, consider becoming a patreon by visiting

Ayanna Nicole

Hi! I’m Ayanna, a 28-year-old writer and artist. Although I graduated from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte with two degrees in art and psychology, I’ve had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember. By following my dreams and utilizing my creativity, I designed Jaro Magazine with the ultimate intention of bringing more positive stories in the black community to the forefront, while also highlighting our versatile and vibrant culture through Jaro’s four modes: film, books, art, and music. I’m into spirituality, nature walks, music festivals, poetry, traveling without a destination in mind, painting, and discussing everything out of the ordinary with other curious minds.

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