“I'm an actor. I'm a singer and I dance. To be able to do all these things is amazing. And to have similar minded people all around you, doing what you love, is even more amazing.” Elijah Kelley
Multifaceted artist Elijah Kelley achieved worldwide fame with the blockbuster hit “Hairspray” (2007), a big screen version of the stage musical adaptation of the 1988 John Waters movie of the same name. Playing Seaweed, Tracy's dance instructor, he co-won a Hollywood Film Festival Award and a Screen Actors Guild nomination. Also having four songs on the soundtrack, Kelley, whose favorite musicals are “You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “The Wiz,” picked up a Broadcast Film Critics Association nomination for the song “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go).” One of Entertainment Weekly's “30 Under 30” (2008), Kelley previously appeared in such movies as “28 Days” (2000) and “Take The Lead” (2006) and TV series like “The Shield,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Numb3rs.” He also acted in the TV films “Mama Flora's Family” (1998) and “A Lesson Before Dying” (1999). Moviegoers should not miss his appearance in the upcoming “Red Tails” (2009).
Kelley is currently working on his album debut. He stated, “I'm doing my album right now, working diligently. We're about 50% done and we've been collectively working with the likes of Chris Brown, Diana Ross, Will Smith, etc. He added, “I really want to be a multimedia artist. I want to be universal, the kind of person that Frank Sinatra, Sammie Davis, Jr. used to be.”
Kelley is setting up the Elijah Kelley Foundation in his hometown of LaGrange, Georgia, to help local kids chase their dreams. The Elijah Kelley Center for Performing Arts is going to provide dance, music and drama classes.
The Leonard Family
Childhood and Family:
“Growing up in Georgia, it was sort of the last place to jump on the bandwagon of the integrated frontier. I have aunts and uncles and grandparents that experienced the 'whites only" and segregated schools. Their experiences are very real and I wanted to be part of cinematic history in exploring how ridiculous the separation of these two cultures was.” Elijah Kelley
Elijah Kelley was born on August 1, 1986, in LaGrange, Georgia, to a family connected to southern gospel music. A born entertainer, he toured with his family in the gospel quartet “The Leonard Family,” when he was three years old, and by age 7, had developed a love for movies.
Elijah was educated in Long Cane Middle School and Troup County High School, where he sang in the school's choir. After high school, he relocated with his family to Los Angeles to pursue his career seriously.
In his spare time, Elijah loves playing tennis and basketball.
Come So Far
Elijah Kelley launched his career at a very young age. He began singing with his family gospel group at age 3 and appeared in a number of Coca-Cola commercials. A star in high school drama, the LaGrange, Georgia, native made his television acting debut when he was 12 years old with a part in the film “Mama Flora's Family” (CBS, 1998), which was adapted from the Alex Haley novel of the same name. He then appeared with Don Cheadle, Mekhi Phifer and Cicely Tyson in the Emmy Award-winning television movie “A Lesson Before Dying” (1999), directed by Joseph Sargent, scripted by Ann Peacock, and based on Ernest J. Gaines' novel, before appearing in the featured role of Darnell in the Sandra Bullock and Viggo Mortensen starring vehicle “28 Days” (2000).
After graduating high school, Kelley moved to Los Angeles and landed guest spots in popular TV series such as “The Shield” and “Everybody Hates Chris” (both 2005), where he appeared as Jaymon and Guy, respectively. The next year, he played Anthony in an episode of “Numb3rs” called “The OG,” which was broadcasted on January 6, 2006.
Kelley resumed his film career by taking the supporting role of Ben in Charles T. Kanganis' “Rome & Jewel” (2006), a modernization of Shakespeare’s tragic love story “Romeo and Juliette” set in Los Angeles. Among his costars in the film were Nate Parker, Lindsey Haun and Allen Maldonado. He also had the important role of Danjou in New Line Cinema’s ballroom classic “Take The Lead” (2006), opposite Antonio Banderas and Rob Brown, and played Leroy Wright in the independent film “Heavens Fall,” which premiered at the Stony Brooks Film Festival on July 20, 2006. Directed and written by Terry Green, the film won the Hollywood Discovery Award for Best Feature Film at the 2006 Hollywood Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature at the 2006 Birmingham Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.
Kelley's big breakthrough arrived when he won the role of Seaweed, Motormouth Maybelle's (played by Queen Latifah) son, in the 2007 movie adaptation of the 2002 successful Broadway musical “Hairspray.” Directed by Adam Shankman and also featuring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken, the film earned positive reviews and emerged as the forth highest grossing musical in the history of American cinema. For his acting job, Kelley won a Hollywood Film Award for Ensemble of the Year at the 2007 Hollywood Film Festival and a 2008 Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Recalling how he got the role in the movie, Kelley stated, “I heard they were going at a lot of the R&B and pop stars that are out right now. It was a blessing. I was fortunate enough to slip into the cracks. I wasn’t known. I wasn’t this big, huge, gigantic star. I just work hard at it. I do the old grind work; got in to do my thing. I feel like if I wasn’t able to have done this movie, I don’t think my career would have started the way I wanted it to. How many times do you get to get on a platform where you’re able to exploit all your talents? That was so fortunate for me and it does not hurt the process of me finding girls.”
Also an accomplished singer, Kelley contributed to “Hairspray Soundtrack,” which was released on July 10, 2007. The album has sold over one million copies in the U.S., and has been certified Platinum by RIAA. Kelley performed four songs titled “Run and Tell That,” “Without Love” (with Zac Efron, Nikki Blonsky and Amanda Bynes), “You Can't Stop the Beat” (with Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, John Travolta and Queen Latifah), and “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)” (with Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky and Zac Efron), from which he jointly netted Broadcast Film Critics Association's Critics Choice Award nomination in the category of Best Song. After the soundtrack, Kelley provided his vocals for “DisneyMania 6,” released on May 20, 2008. He sang “He Lives in You.”
Kelley will play Samuel 'Suicide' George in the upcoming drama “Red Tails” (2009), opposite Method Man, Nate Parker and Lee Tergesen.
Hollywood Film Festival: Hollywood Film Award, Ensemble of the Year, “Hairspray,” 2007