Elliott Ross had been working as an actor for a dozen years in his native London before recently relocating to Los Angeles. Doing stage work in theatrical performances for The Royal Shakespeare Company, at the famous Shakespeare’s Globe, and on London’s West End, Ross was patiently developing his craft. Aside from some short films, however, he hadn’t been given the opportunity to transfer that talent cinematically; eventually, the fit Ross became a personal trainer, using his dedication and will power in a more physical way (something any fan of stars who do their own stunts will appreciate).
However, fate took a sudden liking to Ross, whose skills and dedication have paid off in the past year with his sudden casting of two projects, as highly anticipated as they are high-profile. The past year or two has been wild in the worst ways for many people, but proved wild in the best sense for Ross. “Yeah, it’s an exciting year, and I’ve been really enjoying myself,” he says, smiling confidently but with that certain sense of subtle disbelief. As such, his story is an interesting example of what it’s like to break through as an actor not only in the COVID-era of cinema, but in the digital one as well.
Elliott Ross, From Stage (to Gym) to Screen
“The last few years have been particularly interesting for everyone, right? The world shut down,” Ross says. He explains how, in seemingly the blink of an eye, Ross began a journey from stage actor, to unemployment, to personal trainer, to big-budget stardom.
I had a background in theatrical work, and when the pandemic happened, I was in London and all that work got canceled for the entire year. There was this kind of existential crisis in, like, my identity. All my work was gone. I think, actually, that was a very useful exercise, and I pivoted in a big way. So I obviously still had ambitions as an actor. I didn’t give it up, but there was no acting to do, no one to meet, no shows to go. See, there was lots of TV to watch, but I wasn’t auditioning for any of it. Really. I had a few over the course of a year but not much.
“So I started a business as a personal trainer,” Ross continues, “which I loved. It was really good for me to kind of take control of my life and career in such a new field. And it basically translated to the rest of my life, because I had this new kind of feeling of capability.” There are obvious positive aspects to it, but there is also a burden to ambition, especially in more creative lines of work. It’s evident that Ross was able to unload some of that burden for a while, to not stress about acting at a time when there was so much else to stress about; it gave him a sense of control and confidence that the endless pursuit of auditions and roles usually don’t.
“Physically, I was in better shape because of it, so I just kind of approached with a more well-rounded sense of control. Whilst I was doing that, I took a couple of courses online in self-taping, because all of our auditions went to self-tapes” during the pandemic, Ross says. The possibility of acting on screen, albeit in some bubble, arguably became the most viable option to a lot of stage actors in a time when public performances and the theater itself were shut down. “I just kind of looked at the world without theater – I still wanted to be an actor, I didn’t have a huge amount of screen experience […] and I just kind of prepared myself for the possibility of those opportunities happening. And they did; they came in the form of The Quest.”
Ross Plays Prince Cederic in The Quest on Disney+
The Quest was a short-lived but beloved ABC series back in 2014 which was, and still is, unlike just about anything else. The premise, developed by the same people behind The Amazing Race, inserted real-life contestants into a fictional fantasy world, essentially turning live-action role-playing into an epic television game show. After years of a small but strong and vocal fan base wondering if the era of streaming would ever bring back their favorite show, Disney+ answered the call.
The Quest looks and sounds great, and is a truly unique layered sundae of Game of Thrones, The Amazing Race, and a Renaissance festival, with a little experimental theater sprinkled on top. The premise takes a group of young people and drops them into an established, high-concept fantasy world filled with strong actors and lavish sets, devising quests for the group to strategize over while eliminating weaker contestants as the show progresses. While the narrative thrust of the series is plotted out (“it’s about 60% scripted,” Ross says), a good amount of interactions and dialogue remain largely unscripted in The Quest, due to the fact that the contestants are real people interacting with a fictional world. As Disney describes it, courtesy of IGN:
The Quest is a groundbreaking, immersive, hybrid competition series that drops eight real-life teenagers (Paladins) into the fantastic, fictional world of Everealm, where they must save a kingdom by fulfilling an ancient prophecy. Throughout the eight-episode series, these heroes are immersed in a fantasy world come to life, complete with a castle, royals, ethereal fates, all forms of mystical creatures, and a sorceress intent on destruction and power.
Ross plays Prince Cederic in the show, a cocky heir to the throne who believes he’s the worthiest successor. “I had just spent a few months doing courses on self-taping, and I had a few other auditions, a few callbacks, a few horror stories, and then I booked The Quest at this point in my life, where I spent most of the year not being an actor,” Ross laughs. “It was amazing. Then I booked my next job on Masters of the Air whilst I was in California, filming The Quest.”
From The Quest to Masters of the Air, A Band of Brothers Follow-Up
Masters of the Air is a very eagerly awaited miniseries from Apple TV+, one which looks to be their most expensive production to date at around $250 million. It’s a spiritual successor of sorts to Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece Band of Brothers, produced as it is by him and Tom Hanks (and written by one of the same writers, John Orloff). The World War 2 drama follows the Eighth Air Force of the U.S. military and their combat throughout Nazi-occupied territory.
It was one thing for Ross to land a plum role in The Quest; it’s quite another to immediately shift into a behemoth of a production. “I mean, it was back to back, and I didn’t have a day off,” Ross laughs, then comically corrects himself. “You know, that’s a lie. I’m lying. I took a took two weeks off between The Quest and Masters of the Air. I did a road trip in California in a camper-van, which was so cool.” Ross’ excitement, over navigating not just the topographical delights of California but also the vast wilderness of the Hollywood entertainment industry, is palpable. Ross is able to tell us a bit about massive new Spielberg series:
I played Lieutenant Donald Strout, a navigator in one of the planes. It was a privilege to play a real person, someone who actually flew in those planes and fought in that war which was terrifying. I mean, also the planes that they put us in were real B-17 planes, and I was wearing the same uniform that he was wearing, with the big heavy jacket and the gas mask and the headphones and the big gloves. The only thing that I wasn’t battling with were like, you know, sub-zero temperatures […] it was really immersive. It was fascinating, and it’s scary to even just look into the experience that those guys had. The set was amazing. So many cool people working on the projects […] exciting directors, and really cool actors. I had a really good time, and I’m excited to see it. I think it’s gonna look amazing.
Ross uses the word ‘really’ a lot more than what’s mentioned here, and it’s honestly joyful to see how much excitement, satisfaction, and passion the actor has for what he’s doing. Hopefully this is just the beginning. The Quest premiered on Disney+ May 11th, and Masters of the Air has no firm release date at this time, but Apple TV+ will likely premier the series sometime late this year.
Best TV Series Coming to Disney+ in May 2022
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