Haitian American actor and filmmaker Jean Elie made his acting debut in season two of the critically-acclaimed series Insecure as Ahmal, Issa’s gay brother. But he didn’t stop there; he appeared again in Issa Rae’s Rap Sh!t, Netflix’s Colin In Black and White, and his very own series, Send Help. While some may consider Elie a late bloomer regarding finding his passion for acting, they can’t deny his passion for acting in films that are not only culturally compelling and transformative but manages to resonate and connect Elie with the viewers.
“I started creating the content because no one was giving me the yes. So I started creating my own yeses. That’s how Send Help came about,” shared Elie.
This was the mindset that landed Elie his first leading role, joining the cast of HBO’s Insecure. After graduating with a degree in business, Elie knew that entrepreneurship was something that he liked, but he needed to figure out where he’d fit. After auditioning for a role he found out about through a radio ad, Elie describes that opportunity as being bitten by the acting bug. At 21 years old, he decided he would chase an acting career, something he never imagined that he would be doing.
“I saw a teacher-student do a scene, and I realized there was nothing else that I wanted to do. This is life!” said Elie.
When asked about being behind the scenes on set for Insecure, Elie shared that the cast “created a family vibe and atmosphere that showed on the screen.”
He expressly referred to Issa as his “Big Sister.”
“She walked me off the ledge a few times, making sure that I made the right decisions and that I’m also not being hasty with my decision-making,” said Elie.
He also described his role as Ahmal as his “most freeing character.”
“I really enjoyed playing Ahmal. I wasn’t aware of how heavy it was going to affect people playing Ahmal. I walked on set every day like, ‘I’m a bad bit*h, like I’m the baddest mutha*ucka.’ I was playing Cardi B and Megan thee Stallion,” said Elie
With a relationship that was genuinely cultivated, Jean joined Issa on her next HBO series, Rap Sh!t. He played a Jwet, a term he refers to as someone who “Do what you do to make it by and to help the family and keep a roof over your head. You know, play with the Jwet once in a while.”
This was no new character as he played another character of Haitian descent in Send Help who had the pressure of helping his family in Haiti.
Elie shared that he feels some of the same pressures in his personal life, being that he is responsible for caring for his mother.
“Mom is retired and lives alone. I’m constantly helping her and taking care of home. It’s important to have that representation on the screen,” said Elie.
Elie has made it clear that he only wants to work on roles that he connects with and that will impact the people who are represented and shown through his characters.
“It has to have some type of connection to me. I like playing characters that represent people in the world that people can actually connect to,” said Elie.
Elie plans to give back by creating Bassett House Pictures, an environment and space for creators to grow and network.