Ely Henry: the laugh that created the actor

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The first moment in which Ely Henry realized that he wanted to be an actor was after a school play in grade one. He received his first laugh from a large group of people and he liked it.

After taking classes and improving his skills, he got the opportunity of being in many movies and TV shows, such as “Mean Girls”, “Cheapen by Dozen 2”, “The New Normal” and “Skins”, among others.

Nowadays, Ely portrays Reggie on “Suburgatory” and Doug on “Twisted” and he is going to Rhode Island to start production on the movie “Some Freaks”. He also makes funny videos on “The Crap Song Project”, in which he convers “terrible” songs.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Ely Henry spoke about his beginnings, his role on “Twisted” and his upcoming projects.

How did you start acting and singing?

I’ve been acting ever since I can remember, really. I first started pestering my parents to get me an agent when I was six.  It was after I did a school play in grade one. I can’t remember anything about the story (not that there are any first grade plays with memorable stories), but I remember I was in a mouse costume with a really long tail which I used to spin around like a cane. It was the first laugh I got from a large group of people and it got me hooked.

Anyways, after about a solid four more years of pestering, my parents helped me find an agent. It was also around that time that I started taking classes with the Second City Toronto which started my love of improv.

Singing is a whole different story. My two older brothers are incredibly talented musicians and have been since they were young. I, on the other hand, was pretty terrible for a very long time. It was only at the end of high school that I picked up a ukulele and realized I could play it and, to my surprise, sing with it.

It took me a little while to gain my confidence as a singer but I forced myself to start recording songs and put them online and the feedback I got was really positive so I kept going.

How do you prepare yourself for a role?

Well, I don’t really have any specific method, but I have a few tricks to help me find the right character for the role.

The main thing I do is read the scene as straight and predictably as I can, then I do everything I can to screw with it. That is to say, I try and keep the intention and the motivation in place but see if I can present it all in a more interesting way. What I find helps is messing with the cadence and the tone of the voice until something fits.

For example, with ‘Reggie’ on Suburgatory, when I was auditioning I found it really funny to make him sound kind of like a sheep. So, whenever I get a new scene with Reggie and I’m having trouble saying it with his voice, I just ‘baaaah’ to myself and then it all comes together. Hah, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

How did you get the opportunity of being on “Twisted”?

It was just a regular audition through my manager. They had me read the monologue I give in the second episode at the grief counseling group. The one where I talk about wanting to be Regina’s “nerd pet”. It was a really fun audition. I tried as hard as I could to cry which, I think, made it funnier.

How is it like portraying “Doug”?

Doug is a lot of fun. He’s so, so, so, awkward. He’s always fun because he either has no idea what’s going on or how to deal with what’s going on. He’s in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. He mostly picks flight.

What can you tell us about what’s coming up for him?

You’ll just have to wait and see!

What do you like the most about acting?

That’s a tough question. I don’t know if I know the answer to that.  I guess I would say I like being put into interesting situations and figuring out how to deal with them. Acting is, among other things, a study of psychology and figuring out how people act in different scenarios is fascinating to me.

What can you tell us about “The Crap Song Project”?

Probably that I should get back on it, hah. It’s been a while. I got distracted.

Regardless, I wanted to add something fun to my setlist and so I made a facebook status asking friends to suggest terrible songs they wanted to see me cover. I was only expecting a few suggestions and wound up with forty five.

My favorites so far are “I Gotta Feeling” and “Mmmbop”. Mmmbop is fun to play live because people don’t really know what it is until you get to the chorus. I also like to do a live mashup with ‘Drift Away’ on that one because it’s so ridiculous.

Which other projects are you doing or plan to do for next year?

I’ll be heading to Providence, Rhode Island in January 2014 to start production on a movie called “Some Freaks” which I’m very excited for. It’s written by Ian Macallister-Mcdonald who’s also directing. It’s a really terrific story and a really fun script. I’ll also get to work with my friend Thomas Mann who’ll be playing the lead. I can’t wait!

Follow Ely on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ElyHenry

Samantha Schuster

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