A character actor with a knack for playing blustery Southerners and military men (comic and dramatic), Chris Ellis was, appropriately enough, born and raised in Mississippi. While hardly a radical, 18-year-old Ellis discovered his interest in the arts, and his slightly longer than average hair made him a less than welcome presence in Mississippi. In 1968, he began studying acting with a theater troupe in Memphis, TN, where he made his stage debut. After completing his studies, Ellis moved to New York City, where he began working in off-Broadway and regional theater. However, keeping his foot in the door proved difficult for Ellis, and he found himself without steady work through most of the '80s, getting by thanks to the kindness of friends who would often invite him over for dinner. In 1990, Ellis' luck began to change when he was cast as the memorable Harlan Hoogerhyde in the Tom Cruise vehicle Days of Thunder. By the mid-'90s, Ellis was working steadily in film and television, making small but notable appearances in Apollo 13, That Thing You Do!, and Armageddon, and making guest appearances on such series as The X-Files, Millennium, and Chicago Hope.