Not long ago, we were introduced to Jay Ellis as Blue on BET’s “The Game.” Ellis continues to expand his acting résumé with his role in Breaking Through,a movie about a young woman’s discovery on YouTube and her rise to fame. The film was executive produced by John Legend.
In the movie, Ellis plays the manager who guides her to Internet stardom. Breaking Through features many YouTube content creators. The film is directed and written by filmmaker John Swetnam.
Rolling out spoke with Ellis about Breaking Through as well as his other upcoming projects.
How did you get involved with this project?
I got the script and immediately really dug the story. It was my initial attraction to the part. On top of that I knew John Legend was going to be working on it. I knew he was EPing [executive producing] it. I’m a huge fan. And anytime I feel like you can be associated with somebody like that. When you get the opportunity, you take it and have fun with it. And dance is not my thing. I probably look like the biggest fool on the planet dancing, but it was something that was different for me. I wanted to try that. I wanted to hopefully grow a little bit as an actor and try something new.
What is your character’s backstory?
Quinn’s backstory; his parents passed when he was younger. So, he has been taking care of his brother for a few years. He’s a good kid that doesn’t speak much. He kind of lives life through the camera now recording everything so he doesn’t miss any moments. He’s at this place where he’s trying to kind of provide a better life for him and his brother. He thinks that the best way for him to do that is to start his own business, a management company. A management company managing dancers. Trying to capitalize on this YouTube business that’s out there now. He’s hungry, he’s young, he’s ambitious He wants to make the best of the situation that he’s in and provide the best life that he can for his younger brother. He also wants to do right by the people that he works with. He sees a talent in Casey that he thinks she can really be a big deal. He thinks she’s special and she can be a really big talent. He wants to mine that and cultivate that.
Who plays your brother in the film?
His name is McCarrie MaCausland. Great kid! He was on “Army Wives” for 6-7 yeas. He’s from Florida. Then him and his mom moved out to L.A. for him to pursue this dream. And he’s killing it. He’s crushing it. I think he’s actually on another show right now.
What was it like filming with your cast mates?
It was fun. These guys weren’t necessarily actors by trade. They’re all dancers who are some of them acting for the first time, or some of them getting to act this much for the first time. That was really interesting. It was a lot of fun getting to see. You know, art translates in so many different ways. Creative art translates in so many ways. To watch these guys who typically work with their bodies for a living, and for their craft, to watch them to be able to create as actors and translate that physicality into their performance was really, really, amazing. On top of that, I was insanely intimidated because they’re all amazing dancers. They’re literally, from Dancing With the Stars to tours with Neyo, Janet, Britney, and Chris Brown. It was really really, amazing to be around such a talented group of people.
You have some upcoming projects. Talk about that.
Yes, I just finished a pilot with HBO called, “Insecure” that Issa Rae wrote loosely based on her Web series, “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” That was an absolutely amazing experience. Issa is a genius. I play her boyfriend in the show. He’s a bit of a loser. He doesn’t get off the couch. He really isn’t, he’s not motivated to do much in life. And more because there’s not a lot of options for him. He’s kind of been beaten down. He doesn’t have the confidence that he probably had when he graduated from college and was trying to take the world by storm. So, it’s a fun show. It’s all about Issa’s character that lives this life that is a bit mediocre for her. She is not in love with her life, from her job to her boyfriend. One person that kind of has empathy for her is her best friend but her best friend is also selfish and caught up in her own stuff that she sometimes doesn’t realize that Issa needs a friend as well.
What’s your character’s name?
Is there anything else you would like to add about Breaking Through or any other project you may have coming out?
I will say Breaking Through is a lot of fun. As far as the dancing goes, it was absolutely amazing for me. They have some of the best dancers. They have the twins who danced with Beyoncé. Their part, the video, it’s interesting because all of the dance sequences in the movie were shot all the way through. So, there are very few cuts to hide stuff. They basically tried to shoot them all the way through every single angle that they shot it because they didn’t want to hide anything. They wanted the dance to kind of speak for itself. These two dudes are unreal, absolutely, unreal to watch.
So is Sofia [Aguiar] who is also the lead [Casey] in the movie. This is first her break as an actress.
She’s a dancer. She’s been on tour with tons of people and she really did an amazing job. She really stepped up every single day and did her homework. She not only brought it as a dancer, but ultimately, she got there as an actress too.