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Mirror Works: Jack OF ALL trades; My CV: JACK ELLIS ...FROM TREADING THE BOARDS TO TV BADDIES.

Byline: YVONNE SWANN

JACK Ellis is best known for his role as bent prison warder Jim Fenner in the hit ITV series, Bad Girls, but over the years he has done Shakespeare on stage and many TV crime dramas. Here Jack, who lives in London with his wife - actress Christine Kavanagh - and their two children, tells YVONNE SWANN his story.

MY father was a white-collar railwayman and my mother worked in sales. I was born in London and lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb, until the house was sold to fund my education and we moved to Pinner. Like my father and two brothers, I went to Highgate public school. I didn't do particularly well at school, so my parents' sacrifice was a bit of a waste of money. I mean - I became an actor! In fact, my eldest brother is Robin Ellis of Poldark fame and my middle brother is a TV director in LA.

I WAS in the National Youth Theatre when I was at school and went on to study drama at the Bristol Old Vic. To earn extra cash I worked in the drama department at Bristol University, chalked up the board at a betting shop and sold records in a record shop.WHEN I left drama school I went into rep at the Manchester Library Theatre, where I got my union card.

After nine months, I moved on to Birmingham Rep and then, at 22, I became a founder member of a company called The Actors Touring Company. It was amazing.AFTER ATC, I did a new play in Edinburgh and then started doing a bit of telly here and there. I was never a comfortable leading young man. I preferred roles like the Duke in Measure for Measure. I enjoy playing baddies. They are more interesting. But now I'd like to play a sort of flawed hero.

Over the years I have done a lot of Shakespeare. It's a great discipline and a useful background for the play I am doing now - A Few Good Men. The dialogue is so on the nail. I really had to get to grips with the impressive language.

MY biggest break was Bad Girls in 1999. I was in debt and it was a very welcome job. I just said yes - without looking at a script. It certainly put my name on the map.

I've been very busy since finishing Bad Girls in June. I've filmed a role as a Northern cop in Blue Murder with Carolyn Quentin, and had a guest lead role in the first episode of Lewis - Morse without Morse, to be aired this autumn. Now I'm on stage until December.

MY WORST JOB

AT 17 I worked in a furniture maintenance department for British Rail. Loading the very old lorry wasn't much fun and it belched toxic fumes into my nostrils.

WHY I LOVE ACTING

FINDING the nub of a role is always a puzzle. When I start working on a part, it always seems obscure and difficult. Hopefully four weeks later I am comfortable being that person. I enjoy that process. It's a bit like diving off a high board. You've just got to let go and the more you do it, the more interesting it becomes.DON'T take yourself too seriously. Theatre is the best grounding. Be nice to everyone around you. They could easily be running a TV network one day. You never know.

-A Few Good Men runs until December 17 at Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, W1 (Box Office: 0870 400 0626).

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THE TRUTH: Jack stars in A Few Good Men in the West End
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2005
Words:606
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