'Smash's' Jaime Cepero on playing the guy people hate
Jaime Cepero plays Ellis, the overly ambitious assistant, on NBC's Monday night drama. His drive to move out of the lowly position causes him to post private work sessions on YouTube and steal notebooks from purses. And, hey, it has kind of worked. He went from being a composer's assistant to a producer's assistant--so he's making progress. But now he's slept with a male talent agent despite having a girlfriend in order to move up the ranks some more.
It's all made for a somewhat insufferable character. Show Tracker spoke to Cepero about playing a character not many people like.
This is your TV debut—what’s the experience like given that your character hasn’t really ingratiated himself in the eyes of viewers? Some people can’t stand him.
I love it. It just lets me know that I’m doing my job correctly. People really dislike the character. I think the way he’s written is to get that reaction out of people. It just shows how great the show is that people have reacted so strongly to this character. I never really got to play a villain before so this was a real stretch for me. Having people come up to you and say, “I hate you on ‘Smash’” or ‘I can’t stand seeing you on my screen,” … I’m like, “Uh, thank you?” I don’t really know what to say sometimes but I think it’s a good thing and I think it’s an awesome character to play.
What is the deal with Ellis being so ambitious? An assistant to a producer credit? Really?
He’s pretty ambitious, for sure. I think … I mean, he’s fresh off school. He’s a young kid and this is his first job and he wants to rise to the top. He comes from a place where he didn’t really have a chance to have all these wonderful things that he sees these producers and these writers have. They get these posh lifestyles and go to fun parties and wear these awesome clothes so I think he got a taste for that in working with Tom and Julia and now he wants all those things so he’s trying to get to the top.
It certainly makes for a lot of screen time for you. You’re lurking in every scene, practically.
Yeah, he’s always there. He’s really trying to be there at all times, everywhere. I think it’s really funny. It’s fun to always be in the background of, like, every scene.
What are we going to see from your character as the season closes out? Will all his conniving ways come to a boil at some point?
Um, I could possibly say that in the future, as the series goes on, you might see it come to a boil. You could says he’s stashed his Chekov’s gun. When you bring a gun onstage, it has to go off eventually. And you’ll see that eventually.
Let’s talk about Ellis’ sexuality. The show has thrown me for a loop so many times with him. Do we know, for sure, what Ellis’ preference is?
I mean, I’m still trying to figure it out myself. It’s clear that he has a significant other. But I think the episode from a couple of weeks ago really speaks to how ambitious he really is. You can kind of see in that scene that he wants to get this actress [Rebecca Duvall] in the role really bad. Enough to follow through with sleeping with her agent. He wants the show to be a success and since it was his idea, he wants to follow through. He figures if he brings in the star, he’ll get credit on the show. But I’m not sure if him sleeping with the agent goes beyond him just wanting to get the actress. He had to find some way to seal the deal.
Photo credit: NBC