Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed actor Ellis Rubin about being a child actor, the highlights of his career so far, working on The Greatest Showman, and his goals for the future.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m almost 17 years old and I’m a high school senior now. I’m looking forward to school starting again, especially my drama classes, because it will be in person for the first time since the pandemic started.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an actor?
I was in an after-school children’s community theater program when I was younger. Since there weren’t that many boys, I had a big part in every production. One day they shared an opportunity to go to a professional sound studio to do ADR, which is audio mixing for a film in post-production. It was for the movie “Brooklyn.” I went with my mom and they kept recording me for a long time, after most of the other kids got bored. They had a huge table there that was filled with candy, cookies, and soda. I didn’t know if I was allowed to have any, so I asked someone and she said, “Of course! This is all for the talent.” I didn’t know what that meant. Then she said, “That’s you! You’re the talent.” After that day, I asked my mom, “When can I be the talent again?”
What is your favourite thing about performing?
For me, the best thing about performing is being able to tell stories. People are always looking for connection and community. The stories we tell in the theatre, movies, and TV is a great way to bring people together and understand one another. So I think actors provide a great public service in that way.
What classes or training sessions have you taken to support your acting career?
The high school that I go to is focused on the performing arts. I am a drama major there. Every afternoon we have arts classes, including voice, drama, and theater history.
What was your first professional acting job?
My first professional acting job was playing Young Barnum in “The Greatest Showman.”
What was your most recent professional acting job?
I co-starred in an episode of the TV show “The Last O.G.” with Tracy Morgan. Then I also filmed a small part in an independent movie called “Ode to Joy” with Martin Freeman that wasn’t released until two years later, so technically that might be the most recent..!
Tell me a favourite experience in your career. Something that stands out in your memories and makes you want to find more experiences like it.
I really liked when I could kid around with the crew on set. One time a crew member on “The Greatest Showman” teased me after hearing I had booked my next role, which was for a TV show. He shook his head, pretending to be disappointed I wasn’t going to only work on films, and said, “You’ve changed, man!”
I have also received e-mails from people who tell me how much “The Greatest Showman” meant to them. That also made me realize how meaningful this work can be.
What was your toughest experience in your acting career?
I had to light a match for a scene in “The Greatest Showman.” I had never struck a match before in my life. I messed it up so many times before I could do it. I was really upset, but when you’re acting professionally, you can’t just quit and leave. You have to calm down and focus, and go back and do the scene again until it’s done right. That is very hard.
Have your family and friends been supportive of your acting career?
Yes, they are very encouraging and always say positive things. My parents always help me record my auditions at home. They help with reading lines and setting up the camera and editing the video.
Tell me some career goals. What would you like to achieve?
Ultimately, I want to be a professional storyteller. I am also very interested in political science and government. So I hope to combine my interests in acting and directing with telling stories from history and current events too.
Tell me something you were surprised by, something you had never realised about being a professional actor.
It is a really serious business, because time is money and once the cameras start rolling, you are spending a lot of money. So if anything gets messed up and you have to do another take, and another take, you realize this must be costing a lot and how many people’s jobs are on the line. So there is a lot of pressure, even for child actors!
What are words of advice you have for other aspiring actors?
A lot of the work is not very glamorous. It can be very repetitious to learn your sides for auditions and then to record auditions. If you want to be a professional actor, you have to be open to trying new things and going out for as many auditions as you can. The more opportunities that you take part in, the more chances you’ll have to get lucky and hopefully find success.