JAY ELLIS

Photography by Matt Sayles

Photography by Matt Sayles

Your age, and professional moniker. Your Dad's name? 

34, and Actor (HBO’s Insecure), and son of Wendell Ellis Sr. 

Your parents have been married for more than thirty years, how has their union informed your definition of manhood, and relationships? 

My parents relationship is a beautiful thing. A couple of the things I've taken away from watching my parents are teamwork, communication, and compromise. Teamwork because it's too easy to point the finger and split up or get divorced nowadays. If you are with someone because you love them, then you become a team and you should work to achieve goals as a couple while also helping your partner achieve their dreams as an individual. There are obviously going to be challenging times and with those come communication and compromise.  

  What is your best childhood, or young adult memory with your dad? 

My favorite happened when we lived, on what was then, Bergstrom Air Force base in Autsin, Tx. I used to love Little Debbie swiss rolls and after finishing my homework everyday I would get one. One day, going through my normal routine, I finished my homework and it was Little Debbie time. I walk over to the cabinet and grab the box and it's empty. Now supposedly, I'm the only one in the house who liked the swiss rolls. So I run into my parents room and ask my dad what happened to it. He says my mom must have eaten it because the night before he saw her with chocolate around her mouth. He didn't think anything of it, but looking back she must have eaten the last swiss roll. So I sit at the dinner table with the empty box, the wrapper I found in the trash can, and my cousin, who's in the role of my stenographer, so I could interrogate my mom when she walked through the door. We basically set up a courtroom. My dad was there too. As soon as mom walked in court started. My cousin stood up and said, "court is now in session. The case is Jay vs. Auntie Paula for eating his swiss roll." It was hilarious, my parents let the whole thing play out with my dad being my key witness. In the end, we found that my dad actually ate the swiss roll and that my mom hated them. The next day when I came home my dad had filled the cabinet with a couple boxes Little Debbie swiss rolls.  

Photography by Matt Sayles

Photography by Matt Sayles

What is your most treasured time, or activity spent with your dad -the 'just us time' that lives in your heart and mind? 

Watching TV. My love for film and TV actually comes from the time I spent as a kid watching tv with my dad. Of all the camping, fishing, working on car, etc. that we did this was always my favorite. 

Best piece of advice your dad, or grandfather has ever given you? 

My pops is always dropping jewels, but I think the best things I've ever gotten from him is his work ethic and unwavering integrity. I've never once heard my dad complain about work. He's always had to get up at crazy hours and work ridiculously long days. He's rarely late. Never misses or calls out. He's a craftsman. Constantly working and learning everything that his craft requires. I dig it. It's that put your head down and do the work mentality and when you look up your on top of the mountain.  

Growing from adolescents to adulthood is humbling experience. Can you recall a moment when you've missed the mark, or when you've had to apologize to your dad for something?  Please tell us about that moment you stepped up to the plate and own it. 

I'm sure there are ton of things that I've done, but nothing jumps out. To be honest I never wanted to disappoint my parents. My parents were so young when I was born that I was with them through their struggle. So, I know what they had to sacrifice to make a better situation for us. I never wanted what they went through to be in vain. It's almost like the first generation guilt where you fight and work hard because you realize what your parents had to do to get here. I will say I wish I was better at seeing my extended family. I don't get to get back to them often and I know that is something that is important to my dad.  

Photography by Matt Sayles

Photography by Matt Sayles

How do you show love? 

Ha, I have no clue. You'd have to ask my parents.  

Editors Note: We took that as an invitation and did in fact ask the Papa Ellis ‘How does Jay show love?’, and this is what he said, “In answering your question...one of the qualities I most admire in my son is his expression of love by being confident enough to be that touchy, feely type who likes to hug everyone.  To see that compassion aligned with his strength warms my heart as his father. As an only child it was very difficult for us to see him move so far away from home but we knew as a young man he was in pursuit of his destiny. That's not an easy journey and we admire him for following and staying true to his purpose.  His continued love is expressed in his desire to have my wife and I be "active participants" in his life and to be apart of his journey both personally and professionally.   That is an expression of love that every parent secretly hopes and prays for with their children.  It's an amazing blessing for us as parents.  We are not a perfect family but we are a humble family.  Humbled by the blessings that have been given to us.” Mr. Wendell Ellis

The biggest misconception about Black fathers is...?  

That they are nonexistent.  

What's the most important lesson a father can teach his son? 

Love, responsibility, work ethic, integrity, respect...  

When you become a father, what will be your greatest wish for your children? 

That I'm at least half as great of a father to them that my father has been to me. Outside of that love, true happiness, and for them to live their dreams in a world better than ours. 

To visit Jay Ellis on social media:
Twitter: @JayREllis
Instagram: @jayrellis