Ellen Dubin – LEGO Star Wars
By: Ruth Hill
About a year and a half ago I discovered a project called “The Time is Right,” a sci-fi drama that was in development. As a result, I was introduced to the marvel that is Ellen Dubin. For those who are not familiar with her work, she is a Gemini-nominated actress for her series regular performance in “The Collector” and had two voiceover nominations at the Voice Arts Awards for Outstanding Voiceover Performance in a Video Game and Best Narration Demo Reel. Recently, Ellen and I had a remarkable chat about her upcoming works (and there are several), some of her cherished works in the business and her general outlook on the entertainment business as a whole.
What inspired you to become an actress?
I never wanted to become an actress. A lot of times when you talk to actors, it was one of their dreams. Actually, my dream when I was growing up was to be a ballet dancer. I was a very shy child with flat feet. So, my parents put me into a ballet class so I could learn to relate to other kids. My dad would drive me every weekend to the dance class. And when I was in the dance class, there was something about it that made me feel not quite as shy. There was something about dancing to the music. Each term, we had a recital and when I got in front of an audience all that fear went away and I could feel what the audience was like. Because my parents saw that I was so shy and nerdy, they decided to put me in a dance class and I loved performing. So being a nerd kind of helped. It kind of paved the way.
What are your views on women in this industry? Have things improved as much as we would like to think?
Well, you read the statistics on a lot of websites like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety about the number of women directors and the number is really, really miniscule that are working. There are a little more women producers, but not the same as men. We’re not men-bashing. It’s still really hard to climb up that ladder as a director, producer and as an actress, too. Some of the parts you are given you just go, “Really?” You might as well just call her “Woman A” or “Woman B.” There’s no soul. There’s no character. She just looks good in a pair of jeans. But what does she do in the jeans? There has to be a little more than that “Eye Candy A #1,” but sometimes as an actress that’s what we read. You know, you’re the window dressing. Eye candy.
There are a lot of good cable TV shows now where there’s some incredible women’s roles. Women over 30, 40, 50–you know that’s pretty cool. There’s some amazingly powerful women out there that are doing incredible work on television. There are powerful, wonderful women characters, and that’s really awesome to see. Very well-rounded.
You’ve gotten to do quite a few parts in your career that have been those strong women that don’t fit the typical mold.
I think that’s really because I don’t look typical. I’m not a standard and I don’t mean this in a bad way. There’s a lot of very good-looking people around, but I’m not a traditional, attractive woman in a Los Angeles kind of way. Sometimes I will get, “I don’t get her look. What is she about? What is that?” If they can’t quite figure you out, you’re sort of put aside. If someone is confused, it’s tricky for them in Hollywood. You should be an orange or an apple. They want to pigeonhole you and put you in a box or sell you. So, if you’re a not a traditional, good-looking girl they have trouble with that. But lately, what is traditional beauty? I think there’s many forms of beauty. Was Marilyn Monroe beautiful? Yes. Was Sophia Loren beautiful? Yes. Was Audrey Hepburn beautiful? Yes. There’s a lot of different kinds of beauty. I think we’re making a little more inroads in what you see on television. It’s a little better, but we still have a long way to go. When you see all shapes and sizes and colors and ages, it’s better. Is it great? No. We’re taking big baby steps. We used to take little baby steps. Again, if they can’t quite figure you out, it’s always harder as an actor to have a career where you’re recognized. I’m a working actor and I’m very proud of that. But because I change it up, sometimes it is confusing who I am. Unless I’m at a sci-fi convention and I’m kind of in that group of people, I can walk down the street freely, not like Tom Cruise or somebody like Julia Roberts and not have to worry about getting recognized because I kind of change it up. I love to have the accolades and I love the recognition and for people to appreciate my work, but I would hate to get to the stage–and I mean this–where they know where your family lives. That’s scary to me. I pity the stars. I agree, once you’re a star-star, an A-lister that people should be able to say, “Hey can I have your autograph?” and you shouldn’t be an ass about it. But I also believe people should not follow their kids to nursery school or raid their garbage can because they deserve privacy of their own home. That’s taking it too far. That’s out of line.
Please tell us about your upcoming works.
Well, let’s start with an indie film I did that I’m really interested to see what’s going to happen with it. It is a short film called Girl Knight and it is directed and written by an indie filmmaker Deborah Attoinese. I saw a film she did a couple of years ago and I ran into her at a film festival, and she said, “I’m a fan of your work and if I ever have something, I would love to work with you.” And I said, “Vice versa.” She was very loyal and contacted me on Facebook several months ago. We shot this amazing film with two wonderful young actresses. It’s sort of a coming of age story. It’s about love and how you can be unique–it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s supposed to be coming out in film festivals, starting in June. It’s supposed to start in the U.S. at the Palm Spring Film Festival.
Also, there is a movie I finished with an unbelievable cast of iconic actors and it called The Red Maple Leaf. We shot it in Toronto. It’s a political thriller starring people like Martin Landau, James Caan, Daniel Baldwin, Paul Sorvino, Mira Sorvino and a whole bunch of other people. That movie is supposed to come out in the next couple of months to movie theaters so I will keep everybody posted on that. It was really interesting. I can’t tell you too much about the movie or I will give away the plot. But I loved sitting around the table at lunch, listening to these people who have been around and that I’ve been a huge fan of forever. I mean, it’s so amazing to talk to people who were in The Godfather. Eric Roberts is in it and my beautiful Doris Roberts, who I didn’t work with in a scene in this film, but I worked with her before in another project. It was her last movie. Doris Roberts was an amazing, amazing lady! And this was Robert Loggia’s last movie, too. It was the last film for two amazing, iconic actors. I did not get to work with Doris or Robert in this movie, but I had worked in a sitcom with both of them. I was mesmerized. I could not take my eyes off of them. That is an “acting class” you cannot learn in an acting class.
Voiceover wise, I did a couple episodes of a kid’s show called “The Thundermans” for Paramount Studios and it’s for Nickelodeon and on YTV in Canada. It’s a show about a regular family in the suburbs who are really superheroes. It’s a really cute show. I did a couple voices, but I can’t tell you who as I’ve been sworn to secrecy. So far, I’ve done two episodes and I really enjoyed that.
There’s another show that I’m not sure what it’s going to end up being called yet and it’s going to be about paramedics. As soon as I know when that’s going to go, I will let everybody know. I’m very hands-on with communicating with fans and letting people know when things air. Sometimes I don’t know when things air. Sometimes fans tell me, especially the Lifetime movies or when things repeat. Right now, this paramedic project is called “Save Me.” And I really enjoyed working on that.
May the 4th (May the 4th be with you) for Disney XD, I am on the television special called “LEGO Star Wars” and I play (and I’m finally allowed to say) Captain Phasma, who is played in the last Star Wars film by the incredibly talented, amazingly gifted Gwendoline Christie from “Game of Thrones” who plays Brienne of Tarth. I’m playing her character and doing a voice match to her character in this Disney special. I’m the British Commander. Be sure to check your local listings for this program on Disney XD.
I’d also like to give a shout out to John C. Alsedek who has an old-fashioned radio program and it’s called Suspense Radio. I did an episode called “An Assignation at Poenari.” He’s a writer, too. He’s brilliant. He’s doing sort of a take-off of all the old radio shows with the foley, the creaking doors and the music. And it’s so much fun to do as an actor! He said, “What do you want to play?” I said, “I want to play a Russian vampire.” And he said, “Okay.” Two days later, he wrote the radio script. I did it with a guy named Darren Jacobs, a wonderful British actor who I worked with on the “Nobility” pilot, a sci-fi show. I also worked with an incredible actor named Bill Oberst, Jr. If you look him up, he’s the king of horror and he’s doing a one-man show right now on Ray Bradbury that is absolutely wonderful. The radio show is right now on my Facebook page and it will be on my website soon. John does this all on his own dime and the show is free to listen to. He writes his own material and it’s very rewarding to work with someone like him–he’s so imaginative.
Speaking of your “LEGO Star Wars” special, were you a fan of Star Wars before taking part in the series?
I never was a fan of Star Wars prior to doing “Lego Star Wars” for Disney XD nor the video game Star Wars Uprising, but I am now!
Are you doing anything to celebrate the premiere of the series on May 4th?
I am posting pictures of myself as Captain Phasma and liking all my friends’ posts who are saluting the franchise. I am tempted to do that Princess Leia hairstyle and walk around today, though!
Why do you think Star Wars still holds a special place in people’s’ hearts?
Star Wars appeals to all ages because it really is a universal fairy tale: Hero, Villain, Princess and fantastical characters. The universal themes of loyalty, betrayal and love stand the test of time no matter who is watching Star Wars. The sense of “destiny” and “dreams” are so appealing to everyone. It does relate to the dreamer in all of us and how we would like to see the world….It is a story of redemption and overcoming darkness that is so relevant to our society now. Not just a sci fi movie!!
Now, I knew Ellen was a phenomenal actress, human being, humanitarian and a genuine person who is as humble as they come, but this conversation we had increased my respect for her to the uttermost. Ellen is one of those people that is so unique, caring, gentle and kind that if you connect with one person like her in your lifetime you are blessed abundantly beyond all rationale. I have never known anyone like her. Very few actors have the knack for graciousness and relatability that Ellen does. I invite all of you to be sure to check out any and all of her works, but if you get a chance please check her out on “Lego Star Wars” on Disney XD on May the 4th as she voices the fabulous Captain Phasma!happywheels