…If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and then not assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea…
I had the pleasure of interviewing Greg Ellis.
Emmy nominated Hollywood actor Greg Ellis (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, STAR TREK, TITANIC) who over the last year has set out on a journey to explore the condition of the modern male experience via his brand new video podcast, The Respondent, which just premiered on June 21and airs new episodes every Sunday. This show explores positive masculinity, family law, parenting, sexuality, men’s rights and more with celebrity, author, and expert interviews.
One of the core themes of The Respondent is family, and more specifically how and why families have become so torn. As a divorced father with two young sons, Greg has become increasingly concerned about the effects the family court legal system is having on families. For example, a little publicized statistic is that fathers who have become ensnared in the divorce system kill themselves eight times more. Greg discusses how men are considered defective if they talk about their feelings and when it comes to the dwindling importance of fatherhood, and a legal system that practically promotes family dissolution, something has gone completely haywire.
The Respondent covers many aspects of modern masculinity. Greg’s mission is to provide some solace for forsaken fathers, forgotten husbands, and fallen men of the court system. His aims is to provide a practical psychological roadmap to those who haven’t yet visited dystopia, so that they might navigate the bumpy roads of modern relationships more successfully, and better respond to the challenges facing them and the love offered them. Snaking through this commentary is Greg’s own journey as he battles for his children in family court and heads ever closer to an outcome still coming into focus.
Ellis has acted in films opposite Oscar winners Sir Anthony Hopkins and Geoffrey Rush, been directed by Academy Award winning film directors John Schlesinger, James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis, written for Stephen Fry, directed Kiefer Sutherland, and had memorable roles in billion dollar franchise movies like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Titanic. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for season 3 ensemble cast of the hit tv series 24 among many other small screen roles and is considered one of the most prolific interactive/video voice over actors in the world having worked on over 100 video game titles.
Ultimately, The Respondent is a pleading for all of us to take the necessary steps toward becoming more humane to each other. For additional information on Greg, please visit www.realgregellis.com.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/a14996766babff0ee0c51df918da0c43
Thank you so much for joining us Greg! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?
My first impromptu performance was at a family wedding in the summer of 1972. I was 4 years old.
The assembled well-wishers were in desperate need of relief from the tedium of sleep inducing speeches. The father of the bride had just completed a rather long winded eulogy and the groom was clearing his throat while nervously shuffling through his prepared notes for what seemed like an eternity.
You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. I prepared to slice it wide open.
Seizing the moment, I climbed unnoticed atop the table, took one sharp intake of breath, and with full conviction broke the uncomfortable silence proclaiming, “We’re only here for the Beer!”
It brought the house down.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?
At the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean Premiere at Disneyland on the red carpet I’d met some of my screen icons, then, during a live interview with Kermit D Frog I got to sing an impromptu rendition of ‘Halfway Up The Stair’ with the iconic muppet. I chatted with the puppeteer afterwards and thanked him for his artistry. It was a reminder that our heroes and icons come in all shapes and sizes and that the ‘people behind the scenes’ are the most important. We are a team. The behind the scenes people are a vital component of filmmaking and often do not get the credit they deserve. They make the stars shine, even, and especially, when the star is a furry green frog.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Over the course of my career, I’ve been asked to coach and mentor other aspiring artists on how to succeed in the business of show. With my Alive Coaching program, I’ve started to share what I’ve learned with students who are committed to a career in the arts.
The core focus of the Alive Coaching model is mastery of technique (craft), activation of creative flow states (art), and exponential elevation of career trajectory (the business of show).
There’s more information on my website https://www.realgregellis.com/about/coach/
where artists can learn about my Alive Coaching Model and the A,B,C’s of Alive coaching for performance arts — A. Art in flow. B. Business of show. C. Craft in process.
Mastering technique craft and then letting go so that your imagination can take over. Art is the dualistic approach at the core of the Alive Coaching method that sets the stage for a successful career (business).
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I owe my career in show business to my family and friends in my home town of Southport and especially the founders of a young performers group called SONG, founded by Clive and Jean Morris. They remain the most influential people in my life.
Oh, I mustn’t forget… I just learned that the theatre where I performed my first professional job at 12 years of age is in danger of being demolished and I’ve started to help the “Save Southport Theatre” campaign (https://www.facebook.com/groups/283575586191177/)
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
Monkey ToEs Studio
I nicknamed my eldest son Charlie “Monkey Toes” when he was born and when I founded my production studio it felt natural to name it after him. Monkey ToEs is a phenomenological ideation lab and the name stands for Minds Of Nurture Keep Everyone Young — Tales Of Emotional Sobriety, or ToEs: Theories of Everything Studio.
I started my project “The Respondent” https://www.realgregellis.com/the-respondent/ to honor him and my youngest son Smith.
The Respondent is a new video and podcast series — a multimedia conversation on positive masculinity; a bi-weekly whodunnit, in which I, as both lead detective and key perpetrator work to track down the co-conspirators of men’s demise and the secrets to their reclamation.
It’s also an exploration of how becoming a modern man today demands we reimagine masculinity, rethink fatherhood and revitalize our image of family. How might we embrace and overcome our struggles with ourselves, with the ones we love, and with our hunger for a fuller existence? The magic lies in how we respond to love, adversity and our desires.
One of the core themes of The Respondent is family, and more specifically how and why our familial tapestries seem to have become so torn. As a man and a father, that is my life lens, so I approached the project with a primary focus on fatherhood and family.
One of the complex joys of fatherhood is how best to prepare our sons for the challenges of manhood. In an information ‘Ice-Age of Unreason,’ with young men and boys being bombarded with misandrist messages of ‘all men bad,’ ‘toxic masculinity,’ and ‘smash the patriarchy,’ todays younger generation of boys need encouragement and advocation now more than ever it seems.
So how might we fathers better shepherd our sons (and daughters) through adolescence to learn more self-discipline, responsibility, self-reliance, so that they can be better prepared for when they leave the family home? And why are there so many fatherless children?
In 1960, eight percent of children lived in a home with only their biological mother and today more than 23 percent do. According to dozens of official sources, these children are at a greater risk of having more difficult lives according to just about every measurable metric. They are more likely to misuse drugs, experience abuse, or go to prison. They are twice as likely to drop out of high school and live in poverty. They are seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen. Children who grew up with fathers in the home have stronger cognitive skills, better health, more confidence, and — counter to the story we’re fed — more empathy.
The traditional male role is to project strength and to hide vulnerability. Men fall victim to the canard that we should avoid discussing the emotional shrapnel that comes from traumatic events, and ignore the aftershocks that reverberate long after. Stoicism and machismo, both of which have their place and shouldn’t automatically be considered toxic, nevertheless can block us from exploring the pain that comes from life-changing crises, leaving one confused and adrift.
This diminishment of the father has metastasized into an emotional exigency for our children demanding urgent attention. Only since doing my own personal recovery work, only since becoming more adept at getting out of my own way, am I becoming more fully awake and alive, after a lifetime of struggling for restful sleep at night and sleepwalking through too many hours of the day. At first, this intense focus on bettering myself seemed gratuitous and narcissistic. But, in fact, it is a loving act. Because only when we come to know ourselves more completely, can we help lift everyone around us up to a higher plain. After all, isn’t intimacy ‘knowing and being known?’ So how can I allow someone else to know me better when I hardly know my self?
The video & podcast series The Respondent launched on June 21st with a network television production quality broadcast on a new platform called Thinkspot, and each episode airs bi-weekly on Sunday’s at 1pm pacific time, with a livestream Q&A after each episode with special guests, simulcast on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook following each episode.
Over the last year, I set out on a journey to explore the condition of the male experience via my new blog and video podcast, The Respondent — With in-depth interviews featuring the likes of Stephen Fry with enticing topics of conversation including parenthood, mental health, masculinity, family law, religion, feminism, philosophy, psychology, and more. My mission is to spread this multimedia conversation so that we can be done with ‘smashing the patriarchy’ and ‘all men bad’ messaging, and start to encourage, advocate, and uplift our younger generations of men and boys.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I believe we’ve entered an ice age in which empathy for our fellow man is slowly freezing to death as we watch on. On social media, we pander to faux friends and “cancel” people in crowdsourced witch hunts. “Social murder” rates are at an all-time high, redemption is considered a quaint luxury most of us don’t deserve, and lives and careers are routinely destroyed for decade-old tweets.
Just last week I was speaking with an extremely successful female producer, a CEO of a well known studio, whom I’ve known for sixteen years. She said: “If I read one more comment from Heard conflating female rage with female empowerment, I’m going to rage like an un-empowered female.”
Denigrating men is not the solution. It’s the problem!
At the same time, the sanctity of marriage diminishes daily; we are told social binds like family are dusty ideas of an era best forgotten.
A long overdue reckoning came with the #metoo movement. The ascendancy of women as they break through the last of centuries-old barriers to true equality is a beautiful thing to experience. But we must look at the other side of the coin: the necessary and important recalibration of masculinity.
For so many of us, the relationship between men and women has become strained to the point of breaking. We need to ask ourselves where we are headed in the culture war. We need to ask ourselves whether we are picking the right heroes to speak for us. I am skeptical of any ideology, for example, that insists that half the population be quiet and “sit this one out.” To the contrary, I don’t think there has been a moment in my lifetime when it’s more important for both men and women to be participating passionately in the discussion, reminding each other that love and family are not a zero-sum game.
Most of us are vaguely familiar with stories of family breakdown like mine. We have a friend or family member who endured a bad break-up; it’s a common trope in our dramatic and comedic entertainment; and reliable fodder for TMZ and supermarket tabloids. When it comes to celebrity relationship implosions, if you’re like I was not so long ago, you might have thought: where there’s smoke there’s fire, and if we all just trust the legal system to do its thing, everything will bend toward justice.
But the truth is, at a time when modern fathers are bombarded by messages about the deeply corrosive effects of “toxic masculinity,” we are confronted with a family law system rife with outdated gender ideas every bit as sexist as those faced by women in other arenas, past and present.
The members of the more than 800,000 families that break down each year in America are living through an overcorrection in divorce law. The no-fault divorce laws that swept through most of Western society in the we overshot. Many experts now say divorce systems throughout the Western world are gender biased from top to bottom in favour of mothers, which is what makes it possible for some parents to game the system in ways as egregious as the false allegations I am living through.
The American system doesn’t even answer to the Supreme Court and is needlessly adversarial, promoting uncivil war that the unwitting participants are powerless to stop. Family law justice is not blind, courts presiding over divorce and child custody are not neutral, abuses of power shielded by judicial immunity are not often checked, and no one is held accountable.
A key point I make in my book The Respondent, due out on Thanksgiving Is that, no matter our gender, we need to become better acquainted with our emotions, including our rage. The deep hypocrisy in our current gender conversation is infused with a cycle of shame and rage: At the same time that men are being browbeaten with stale stereotypes about toxic masculinity, a growing chorus of writers is urging women in celebrated books to go as far as to physically assail anyone who does them wrong. How does advocating this type of behavior help our familial relationships?
The reverse psychology embedded in the algorithms of our technology (anti-social media like Facebook etc.) and the devices we rely on such much in this age of information overload are creating chemical imbalances and dopamine addictions — where the device becomes more important than the human to human interactions. This disturbing trend is causing mental health issues, particularly with our younger generations, whereby people are exercising with the eyes down, rather than from the neck up.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
Johnny Depp. He is the epitome of The Respondent. He has been fighting in family law for years now so that he can reclaim his reputation. As his attorney told me, “The truth has no gender” and the fact that he was labelled a wife beater by Amber, and the Sun Newspaper, speaks to the inequality, hypocrisy, and downright misandy of some elements of our society that treat male ‘victims’ differently than female ones. Amber was a domestic violence spokesperson at the same time she was a perpetrator.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Please watch the show — it’s a video podcast series — consider making a donation on my website to help with production costs (this is independently produced) and pre-order the book.
My book “The Respondent” is available on Thanksgiving Day (because that’s when families come together, and that’s one of the major themes of The Respondent — family, parenthood, fatherhood, how we communicate better through our interpersonal relationships with family, friends and our broader collective communities) Oh, and there will be an online virtual launch party.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and then not assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
“Don’t attempt to reason with the unreasonable. They will not forgive you for your rationale.”
Be an individual. An outlier. Find the courage to speak YOUR truth… The forest was shrinking, yet the trees kept voting for the Axe, for the Axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his handle was made of wood, he was one of them.
The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they make the best of everything.
If you carry the bricks from your old relationship to the new one you build the same house
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I already have, and it’s called The Respondent 😉
The book The Respondent is the #MeToo playbook exposed by celebrity #MenToo
I think we need #MenToo in the conversation. There’s a saying: Speak up and risk something. Remain silent and risk something else. Pick your poison.” I think it’s time for men to speak. We have reached the point where men need to stand up, and explore the nature of the modern male experience in this era of deteriorating respect for family. To sever ties with #ToxicMasculinity and serve up #TonicMasculinity. What are we going through and what is our future? Men and fathers need to be the authors of their own stories of pain and struggle for redemption, they need to defend and celebrate the positive side of masculinity, and they need to advocate for the changes necessary to make life better for everyone.
Why? Because maybe it’s time for men 2.0 after all these messages of all men bad, toxic masculinity and smash the patriarchy. Shouldn’t we be championing boys, men, fathers, sons, brothers, grandfathers, uncles as well as girls, women, mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunties? Let’s share more stories of good men, loving father’s, great grandfather’s. After all, becoming older is inevitable, becoming an elder is a skill.
Let’s move from hateful to grateful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
Last year I published a pocket oracle of philosophical quotes called ‘NoThing In Between’
“If God exists in Every Thing, then God exists in No Thing, And everything In Between.” — NoThing In Between
My pocket oracle of philosophical quotes embodies the minimalistic aesthetic of Zen. The words have been used sparingly and arranged precisely, with no unnecessary detail. On each page a single thought provoking quote captures the essence of my philosophical journey, combining everything from existential philosophy to human psychology to the phenomenology of feelings to the interpersonal of the human condition.
One of the quotes I wrote that I didn’t include in the book is one of my confucius quotes that has a little jungian psychology embedded in it –
“I am not who you think I am. You are who you think I am.”
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Brene Brown, Kanye and Balaji S. Srinivasan. Because they’re three diverse cultural figures who’ve achieved great success in their respective areas of expertise, and it would make for stimulating conversation.
And I’d invite them to both these events on Saturday
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!