Last week on a cold wintery day, our destination was the Soho Hotel in central London for a cosy little chat over coffee with up and coming – and very beautiful – actress Ellie Torrez.
Ellie, who started out in our very Brit school, has got an extensive catalogue of TV and Film roles behind her both in Britain and the States. Ranging from Eastenders to SCRUBS to Last Chance Harvey starring alongside Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson to Run Fat Boy Run with Simon Pegg, Ellie certainly hasn’t let the grass grow beneath her feet. We had a lovely chat with the down to earth Ellie who quite rapidly became our new best friend.
You started out at the Brit School; it seems to produce an endless amount of talent, what was your time like there?
I loved my time at the Brit school. I literally went there from the age of 13; I was one of the youngest students to start there. It was incredible. I had a lot of current people working there. So a lot of people still working in the industry where coming in and teaching so you were getting that up-to-date knowledge. It also went alongside my GCSE’s. I did two years with my GCSE’s and then specialised in performing arts, mostly theatre and film in the last years. I was there before Adele and Amy. Actually, we just had a reunion; it’s the 25th anniversary this year. Amy Winehouse died when we had the last reunion and we found out she was supposed to be attending. We found out on the day, there was press there and everyone was finding out about Amy at the same time, it was crazy.
You went on to study in the States, how did that happen?
I did a three-year degree in performing arts which had an exchange program, I auditioned for that and there were three spaces and I managed to get the only female one. I went out there and did a year in the states which were unbelievable. I still work with people who I made contacts with all those years ago. They like the Brits out there, its the accent, they also think we are all Shakespeare-trained (laughs). The way we learn in England is very different to how they learn in the States. I did really well out there, I was getting A’s and A stars for everything without even trying that hard (laughs). I know a lot of people who still train when they are successful out in the states; they are constantly in class, especially in LA. It actually made me up my game being around those people because you think, Actually, I can’t stop learning, we can’t just sit back. That’s what I find now when I am in London I go to the Actors Centre and try take some classes just as and when I can.
You have a long list of TV and Film credits to your name such as Eastenders, SCRUBS, Run Fat Boy Run starring alongside Simon Pegg and Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Which do you prefer working on British or American and TV or Film?
I love working on TV and Film actually; It’s just nice to work (laughs). It just really depends on the script. Something like Eastenders just films so quickly, there isn’t a lot of rehearsal time. When you get an Actor’s Director that’s always quite good how they go through the story and explain what’s going on between the characters. I always like when you get one on one time with the director beforehand, or even if you get to actually speak to the person you’re supposed to do a scene with (laughs), just you can connect with them. With the speed of everything you’ve got to show up knowing your lines, you gotta have your A-Game on.
You’ve worked with Ant and Dec on the ITV show Red or Black, How much fun did you have working with the lads or was it all very professional?
They are exactly the same as they are on TV. They are the nicest guys ever. They are so down-to-earth, there is no switching on and off for the cameras, that’s just who they are. They were happy to have photo’s, they gave you time and they were just genuine. I was so happy about that.
Let’s talk about working alongside the legend that is Dustin Hoffman in Last Chance Harvey, wasn’t that a little daunting?
It was one of the best experiences ever, purely because ever since Rainman I’ve just thought he was an absolute legend. As an actor icon as well, with everything he went through in that film. Again with people at the top of their game I’ve found they are the most humble people in my experience. The people I have met who are on their way up haven’t really been the very nice ones. It’s like they have something to prove. Even when we were filming, there is this scene in the actual wedding where he gets up and does the speeches and he literally had all of us in tears. I spoke to him about it afterwards and he was so genuinely blown away that we felt that emotion. Everyone was silent on another level, it was like there was an atmosphere in that room, and he was almost surprised that he had that effect. He seemed so genuine that we had had that reaction. Emma Thompson is a different league as well. He (Hoffman) is so methodical in everything he does, every take is the same but with Emma every take was different. She was so down to earth as well, she was talking about going for a walk in the park, and how she got scratches on her legs, and she’s very jokey and playful. I would pay for that experience.
When you found out you got the part what was the first thing you did?
I told my Mum and Dad, It’s always the first thing I do when I get a part. With the casting process they were looking for types, even Stings daughter was in it. We were all friends of the Bride who was Hoffman’s daughter. It wasn’t a huge role at all but it was working every day with this amazing cast. The experience was invaluable.
You won the Best Actress award at the Shriekfest Festival in the states for your role as Claire Cane in Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde. How did you feel to receive this award and is it your first award?
Amazing! I didn’t expect that all. I don’t think you ever expect something like that. When the film was nominated we thought great it’s going to get some publicity and a bit of exposure for all of us. I’ve still got my award at home, I think it’s at my Mum and Dad’s now actually. I was really, really shocked and happy.
Which role are you the proudest to date?
That one was great because I got some accolade and I really enjoyed working with the team out there as well. Working with people like Dustin Hoffman, that experience was invaluable. In terms of character roles, I really enjoyed playing Ruby Wilkins in Respire because it was really full on. She was a gritty character, she did her own stunts, I did my own stunts. It was a bit of a Femme Fatale Character so it was fun. I would love to do some more feisty roles like that. It’s great getting the girlfriend or love interest but it’s always nice when you can play a bit of a baddie. They are always the more fun roles to play.
You are also a model? Where would we have seen your face?
I’ve done quite a lot of commercials, Nokia, Tequila…. I’m actually currently on billboards around Canary Wharf on train stations and tubes for the original peninsula, that came out about 3 or 4 days ago. People keep sending me pictures saying what you doing here (laughs). I’ve modelled make-up stuff, wedding dresses. I did the White Mischief shoot, that was a fun shoot. I might just start sending them to my grandmother who really wants me to get married, at least, she can show them to her friends and tell them I did (laughs).
You are fluent in Greek? Your name doesn’t sound very Greek.
I am Greek, yeah even with a name like Torrez. My name is Elana, but I only get called that when I’m in trouble (laughs). My Family name is Theodorou, yeah very Greek. No one can pronounce it in castings. My Dad’s stage name was Torrez so I took it. My Dad was an actor, he did mostly TV. He was around in the era where there was a lot more going on in London; he did Carry on Films and things like that. When I was a kid he used to tell me stories about being on set working with the likes of Sid James and playing cards till 4 in the morning. I was like I can’t believe you get paid to do this job. I said I wanted to be an actor, he said to me if you can do anything else and be happy then do it because it’s really tough, but if you’re serious about it i’ll back you 100%. My family is really supportive, not all Greek families would be.
If you were trapped on a deserted Island which 5 films would you take and why?
I’d have to take Pretty Woman, because it’s one of my all time favourite films and it’s a feel good movie for me as well. Even though I’ve seen it a million times I would still sit and watch it on TV. I love films; I’ve got so many……
At this point, there was a lot of deliberating and long silences going on as Ellie struggled to come up with (decent) films she would take. Eventually, we got there……
I would have to say Rainman for reasons we spoke about earlier, ET, it was the first film to ever make me cry. Forest Gump, I love Tom Hanks and he can do no wrong in my eyes, and The Notebook.
What can we see you in next?
I’ve got quite a few projects coming up in the states, but I’m trying to get my visa at the moment so it’s dependant on that. I’ve also got an animation film which I’m working on in the UK. It’ll a lot of fun as I’ve never done anything like that. There’s a face and likeness of a video game character, it seems to be quite a popular route right now. I’m writing a book on life and death, I was actually inspired from an Eulogy at a funeral and I’m also working on a series of short films with martial arts expert Emil Martirossian (the man behind The Mask and Batman Begins) which I have co-written with him and starts shooting next month.
Keep up to date with all things Ellie Torrez on Twitter @ellietorrez