As Insecure Season Four wraps up this Sunday on HBO, Jay Ellis appears on the latest installment of Rolling Stone‘s “The First Time” video series to discuss his directorial debut on the show, partying with Issa Rae, and meeting Tom Cruise.
Ellis kicks off with recalling the time he changed his name to Jay. Born Wendell Ramone Ellis Jr., the actor was called “Little Wendell” as a child, and expressed his hatred of it at a family reunion. Many of his aunts began calling him Jay as a nickname instead, and when Ellis transferred schools as a sophomore in high school, he officially took the name.
Ellis was psyched when Rae asked him to direct this season’s seventh episode, “Lowkey Trippin.'” “I was like, ‘Yeah, I would love to direct an episode,'” he explains. “You’re crazy enough to give me one, I’m crazy enough to figure out how to do it.”
Ellis later ran into Jordan Peele at a restaurant, and asked to meet with him to discuss the opportunity. He then sat with the Get Out director for two hours. “I did not ask him for a job, although I wanted to,” he cracks. “But Jordan, if you’re watching this, you can still give me one.”
After Ellis describes the time he met Rae at an event, he divulges a few details on the actress’ star-studded yacht parties. “I don’t know how much detail I can actually give for these parties,” he says, “Because first thing about yacht parties, you don’t talk about yacht parties!” Ellis does confirm, however, that the yacht departs from Long Beach with “enough alcohol to last you for the voyage from L.A. across the Pacific to Australia, if you needed it.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the actor shares his first time meeting Tom Cruise at the table reading for Top Gun: Maverick. “This dude hops off his motorcycle, peels his helmet off, puts his sunglasses on, walks into the room, has the biggest smile. The entire room lights up.”
Ellis was shocked Cruise knew his name. “He was everything you expect him to be and want him to be,” he says, admiringly. “It was amazing. It was something I will never forget.”