Hollywood Actor and Brockton Native Jean Elie Shares His Craft Back Home
BROCKTON — When Brockton-native Jean Elie stepped off the plane in Los Angeles, he had $1,000 to his name and nowhere to live. But his determination to chase his dream of becoming an actor overrode any logistical problem.
Six months later, the Brockton High School and Johnson & Wales University graduate had earned entry into the coveted Screen Actors Guild, had signed with an agent, and was getting steady work in commercials.
“I did background on the movie Project X and the next day I booked a speaking role in the movie. And then all of a sudden I was going to a Nike job in Vegas,” Elie said. “And I’m thinking, ‘I’m just a kid from Brockton! This is crazy!’”
Though he was earning consecutive jobs and moving his way up in the acting world, Elie took the advice of a friend and decided at that point to get some formal acting training.
“I went to acting school at Playhouse West in North Hollywood,” Elie said. “That’s where everything clicked for me. People are really serious about their artwork and showed me how it’s really done.
“My work progressed tenfold just being there.”
From his work in acting school, Elie was booked as the character “Biggie Large” for two seasons in the Nick, Jr. series Alvinnn!!! And the Chipmunks. From there, he entered an internship on The Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim, and promptly introduced himself to the star of the show. Andre, a fellow Haitian, began adding Elie to the episodes and then invited the intern to spend the next three years touring the country with the show.
“I look at it this way,” Elie explained. “I’m always in the right place at the right time. I’m always working on my craft so whenever the opportunity comes I’m always ready.”
As he earns a living throughout his young acting career, Elie has begun reinvesting his money in himself and in his dream to start a production company. One of the short films he has produced and starred in, A Gentleman Always, is scheduled to premiere in the AMC Empire Theater in Times Square in two weeks.
“(The film) is about disgruntled youth in America,” Elie said. “As a man you’re told to keep everything in, never really express yourself, not show any sign of emotion whatsoever. This guy that I’m playing is just like that — his mother and father left him, he’s been dropped on the doorstep of his grandfather who didn’t want him, and he has to find out what it means to be a gentleman through tough love from his grandfather.
“And it all happens in six minutes — it’s a vignette.”
Elie will showcase this film and several works from other young and aspiring artists during the first annual Jean Elie Presents: ScreenDat Fest Thursday night at Ryles Night/Jazz Club in Cambridge.
“Either people get uncomfortable showing their art, they don’t know where to show their art, or they don’t necessarily have a venue to screen their work,” Elie said about why the majority of short films never see a public screen.
“That’s one of the reasons I decided (to have this festival). I’m all about take charge and do it yourself and really get the work done because nobody’s going to do the work for you. You can’t wait around for someone to ask you.”
He is currently working on a short film entitled Thin Walls by an Australian screenwriter and will continue to work his way towards the big screen. Elie’s ultimate dream is to act on a television show for four years, then focus on independent films, act in a blockbuster, and finally start a production company.
“I want to give (people) a voice for whatever artwork they’ve done,” Elie said.
And his advice to young people considering entering the acting world: “You’ve gotta make it up in your mind that I’m not going to stop doing it until I get the results I want. There are a lot of bumps in the road but it’s been really good.
“You don’t need to wait for a studio to tell you it’s your turn. I just want people to do better and to be better.”