Insecure actor Jay Ellis opens up about his new role in the upcoming film, Top Gun: Maverick.
Ellis, born Wendell Ramone Ellis Jr. in Sumter, South Carolina, grew up in a military family and moved around often due to his father being in the Air Force. According to NBC News, Ellis’ grandfathers, his step-grandfather and his father were all in the Air Force. This made telling this story of Black naval pilots that much more important to him.
In this sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, Ellis plays Navy fighter pilot Payback. Ellis understands, more than most, how much the military has and can impact lives and how much those who served sacrificed.
“I grew up around aviation, and I think about the sacrifice that so many men and women take — they give, rather — just for us to be safe,” Ellis said. “I think we all wrap our arms around this community and we protect it so much. And we understand the responsibility to be amazing on-screen for these folks.”
“We knew that people flew in jets and protected this country in that way. But we didn’t know the ways in which they get chosen and how they trained to do it,” he continued.
“This whole thing was about discipline and detail. Not only did we have to be so specific in portraying pilots, but we also then got up in the air. We obviously had to film in jets, so we’re talking about a very serious situation. We had to go through safety protocols three or four times a day,” Ellis said.
Training for the film made Ellis appreciate the rich history behind Black military pilots represented in the film. He hopes the films highlights the hard work they all put into it.
“It’s all about everyone, every single day, giving their all — dedicated, focused into making the film. That, to me, was the biggest thing I walked away with.”
Ellis founded a production company in 2018 with his friend, Aaron Bergman called Black Bar Mitzvah (BBM) to help tell underrepresented stories.
He says, “going to find those people and stories that aren’t the stories you typically see every day is a challenge.”
Top Gun: Maverick is set to release in theaters on May 27.
See Ellis chat about his role in Top Gun: Maverick below: