Profession: Actor and comedian
- Appeared in TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation and Falcon Beach
- His group, The Rocket Scientists, performs March 14 at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, which runs March 7-17
- His first novel, Archie Hartigan and the Frost Wolf, based on a web series, comes out in April
- Appears in the feature film, Stage Fright, which will be released later this year
He’s best known for his role as Rick Murray on the TV series, Degrassi: The Next Generation, but actor Ephraim Ellis is also a regular fixture on several other TV series.
And now he’s hitting the stage for the eighth annual Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival with his comedy troupe, The Rocket Scientists. To get to rehearsals, Ellis drives a 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser – it’s his first car, which he bought used in 2006.
Why did you buy a PT Cruiser?
It sounds bizarre, but I picked up a PT Cruiser because I’m a big fan of classic cars from the mid-century, the late ’30s and early ’40s.
You can’t get anything that even remotely looks like that in a modern car. But the PT Cruiser has an ever-so-slightly larger wheel well shape to it that slightly evokes a little bit of that era and, aesthetically, it drew me towards it.
These days, the shape of the wheel wells are always really flat against the car. It has been that way since the ’80s. The cars in the mid ’40s and ’50s had these big wheel wells coming off of them. I love that look. That’s one of the things that attracted me to the PT Cruiser.
My car’s name is Eileen because it’s a used car and sometimes in the winter she makes some funny sounds going up hills. I started jokingly rubbing her dashboard going, “Come on, come on,” when we’d go up the hill. And that lead to “Come on, Eileen” from Dexys Midnight Runners. And she seems like a girl car – like a ship. I think my car is a fine lady.
What’s your favourite feature on it?
This sounds ridiculous, but I would never buy a car that does not have a sunroof and heated seats.
It sounds nit-picky but heated seats in the winter is the greatest thing in the world, especially when the car has been sitting around for a day or two; because I live downtown, I don’t need to use my car too often. I love the heated seats to pieces!
The sunroof is very, very important. Convertibles don’t make much sense in Canadian weather. A sunroof is as close as you can get to one of those.
What don’t you like about your car?
It came with these chrome rims, which look really, really cool. But the second the chrome plating flakes off on them, you get this slow leak in your tires and it’s really really annoying.
It’s not worth having really shiny rims. So next time I get a car I’ll get regular-looking wheels. I don’t need my ride to be pimped that much.
What does a PT Cruiser say about you?
It’s one of those polarizing cars because it does have that unique look to it. Either people are going to love it or hate it.
I think what it says about me … is I have the confidence not to care as much about public opinion.
Have you had any problems with it?
No. Other than a minor problem with the slow leaks occasionally from those stupid chrome rims, it runs beautifully. I’ve hardly had to take her into the shop. She still runs great.
I get a tune-up once a year, but she’s running fantastic still. I plan to run her into the ground and she doesn’t seem anywhere close to the ground yet and she’s getting on 10-years-old and up around 150,000 kilometres. She hasn’t been ridden too hard, but she’s still pretty old.
Are you a car guy?
I’m not really a huge car guy. I like the look of cars. I’m big into design and the aesthetics of cars – not so much into the specs or the gear head sort of stuff.
I do know it’s a special-edition PT Cruiser. It’s got a turbocharged engine in it. I love my car to death.
What do you listen to on the road?
I’m a big CBC Radio 2 drive fan. I’ve got a lot of mixed tapes. Canadian Indy rock stuff.
What’s your best and worst driving story ever?
My worst driving story happened a couple of years ago. I was driving along Allen Road and my front wheel just came off. It came right off the front of the car!
It was the day after a big snow storm and I thought there was some ice trapped under the chassis of the car, but it turned out one of the wheel nuts had gotten sheared off. My garage wasn’t exactly sure what happened. It might have been installed incorrectly.
Luckily, I’m driving along at a fairly slow clip because I knew something was wrong and suddenly there was a big pop! I thought I burst a tire and then suddenly, “Look! There’s my wheel sliding off the front of the car!”
It was the best way that action could have gone down because nobody got hurt, nobody else’s car got touched. It was the best way it could happen.
And my best driving story? I was working on a TV show in Ottawa a couple of years back. Ottawa is directly on the north parallel as my family’s cottage. On the weekends, if I had an extra day off, I’d drive along the back roads along Highway 119. Taking that five-hour drive from Ottawa to Halliburton was a beautiful experience no matter the time of day.
If I can bring you the keys to any vehicle what would it be?
A 1930s Packard I would love to pieces. The look of that car was so gorgeous.
Next time, if I were looking for a car I’d go for a Mini Cooper in British Racing Green. I like them.
But I love this car to pieces. I’m going to hold on to her as long as possible.
This interview has been edited and condensed.