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UM Hooligan now on the big screen

April 8, 2010
Tate Ellington (left), Ole Miss graduate, stars in “Remember Me” alongside Robert Pattinson. Ellington recently sat down with the Oxford Town to discuss his acting career.
OXFORD TOWN- Tate Ellington may be best known in Oxford as a hooligan even if the rest of the world considers him a respectable actor. While in college at Ole Miss, he was part of the comedy troupe, “The Hooligans” but has since gone on to be in numerous film, TV and theater performances. Now living in New York, Ellington recently starred as Aidan in the dramatic “Remember Me” alongside Robert Pattinson of “Twilight” fame. Ellington recently answered a few questions for the Oxford TOWN about his college experiences, working on “Remember Me” and where to see him next.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your college experience at Ole Miss (what degree did you get, best teachers, etc)
A: I had a blast at Ole Miss.  I was the typical college kid.  I partied way to much and studied far to little. My first semester I attempted to double major in art and theatre, but after many three-day sessions without sleep I dropped art and pursued acting full-time. My favorite teacher was Michele Cuomo. She was my first acting teacher and my favorite. My other favorite was Mary Coy. I could be a real pain in the ass and Mary new how to put me in my place.  Rene Pulliam was another favorite. Christopher Shager, who teaches theatre at Oxford High was another strong influence.  He was the head of our improv/sketch comedy troupe the Hooligan’s.
Q: Did you always want to be an actor or when did that develop?
A: I didn’t always want to be an actor, although I believe I have always lied rather well.  Since I was a kid I had been interested in art. I always took after school drawing classes since the 4th grade. I became interested in acting around the ninth grade, but we didn’t have any theatre classes at my high school. The summer before my junior year of high school I decided to take a two-week theatre workshop at New Stage Theatre in Jackson, MS.  The workshop turned out to be more of a daycare. I was one of only two teens in the class, the rest were around 10 to 12 years old.  However, the instructors all suggested that I audition for The Diary of Anne Frank that they were performing that fall.  I got the part. I loved every minute of that show. One of the last nights of our run I remember standing on a chair, beating a pot with a wooden spoon (it was the part in the play when the Normandy invasion has taken place and we believe that our rescue is not far off) and it suddenly hit me that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had an art scholarship to Savannah College of Art, but they didn’t have an acting program.  So, I turned down the scholarship and went to Ole Miss.  I still paint all the time.
Q: What have you learned that you wish you had known starting out with your acting career?
A: Patience, maybe. I don’t know. There is no right or wrong way to do this thing. There is no template. You can’t get down every time you don’t get a part. You can’t think that you’re a bad actor every time you don’t get a job.  Most of the time it is purely a look thing. They need a guy who’s 6′ 2” and blond. That ain’t me. There are a million different reasons to not get a job and few of them have to do with talent. Sometimes not getting a job can be the best thing that ever happened to you.
Q: You have had several interesting roles, from “Elephant King” to “Breaking Upwards” to the newest “Remember Me.” How do you feel your acting career is going so far?
A: Wonderful. I got no complaints. I have been very fortunate to have the right things come along at the right time. I can pay my bills with acting. I get to do the job I love to do. Not many people get to say that. I have a lot of friends who still have to go wait tables every day. I am also very happy with the roles that I have had the chance to play. I think my character in The Elephant King is a far cry from who I play in Remember Me.  I’m glad that I don’t have to play the same guy every time. I also had the chance to perform on Broadway last april with Matthew Broderick and Stephen Weber.  That was a dream come true.
Q: Tell us a little about auditioning for “Remember Me” to being on set to now seeing it on the big screen.
A: The audition process for “Remember Me” was a nightmare. I had to go in four separate times over the course of a few months. The first time I went in I didn’t think I was right for the part, I had only read half the script and I forgot my sides. I was off to a great start.  I was told that I had done great, but they were going to try and find a “name” in L.A.  If they didn’t find a name then I would be in the running. I figured that was it, and put it out of my mind. A month later, I got a call that i would be coming back in for the director. I thought the director hated me. I thought I was doing so badly that I almost got and apologized for wasting every bodies time. Turns out he loved me. A few weeks later I went to meet Rob and do a screen test with him.  Luckily, I was performing on Broadway at the time so I could relax a little bit because I new I had a paycheck. Rob was great! The screen test went wonderfully.  The director and producer loved me, but Summit still wasn’t sold. I had to go back in a few later to sort of hash out what I would do with character.  The director fought for me and eventually I got the job.
Being on set was wonderful! I love all these people coming together for a short amount of time, giving everything they have to create something together. I can be an extremely shy person, but I knew if I was going to play this part that I couldn’t be shy on set.
It is strange to see it out there. It is completely out of your hands now. It’s an odd feeling. I am extremely proud to have been a part of it. I have read most of the comments and reviews about it. I am so thankful that love it or hate it, people are actually talking about. I love that people actually have an opinion about it and a strong one at that.
Q: You are phenomenal in “Remember Me. “Do you think the major role in the film will help your career? Has that helped you receive more attention? Or is it just back to normal?
A: Thank you. I think it will help, it already has.  I was called in to audition for a few things last week because some producers and casting directors had seen me in “Remember Me.” That meant a great deal me. To know that someone saw my work and liked it enough that they wanted to see if I was right for their project. However, it is back to normal. I still have to get up and audition everyday. I still don’t know when the next paycheck is coming. I know though that the right job will come at the right time. So, far it always has.
Q: What’s the future for Tate Ellington? What are your goals over the next few years?
A: The future I am looking towards is making movies.  I am currently working on two scripts.  I love acting, but I have always wanted to see a movie that I wrote come to life and for the first time I have the connections to do it. The best thing you can ever do in this business is to make your own work. That’s what I’m doing.
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