Interview with Actor David James Elliott

Known Best for His Roles on JAG, Seinfeld, and Melrose Place

Photo Credit: Alan Silfen

He may be best known for his role on the CBS hit series "JAG," but Canadian David James Elliott is one versatile actor. He has demonstrated a wide range of characterizations from his hunky, yet hilarious role on "Seinfeld" to Allison's sex-addicted, football player boyfriend on "Melrose Place." In 2006, he joined the courtroom drama "Close to Home," in what turned out to be its final season. 

He's been busy. He played the male lead in the television series Scoundrels in 2010, he had a recurring role on "CSI: NY," a male leading role in the ABC comedy-drama "GCB," an appearance in "Mad Men," and played actor John Wayne in the film, "Trumbo," in 2015.

This interview dates to when Elliot was starring in his second courtroom drama, CBS's "Close to Home." 

What made you decide to get into acting?

"I was in rock and roll for a while and I had been bitten by the performance bug, it seemed to be my calling in my soul. I got frustrated dealing with musicians. It wasn't round enough for me, it was one-sided. So, I tried acting in high school briefly—well, we read a play. It was more my calling and I auditioned for theater school and I got in and the rest is history."

You were in a rock band in your teens, do you ever wish you had gone down that path?

"I tried it, I quit school for a period of time. It was a rough time, we lived in a boarding house, I worked in a belt factory, trying to make a go with the band. We were gigging around Toronto. It was a rough go, it was fun, but it just looked like it was going to be a nightmare. I had quit school and I went back to school. In the end, it wound up being the right thing."

What do you miss most about working on "JAG?" 

"I miss my friends. I had a lot of fun. In the end, there wasn't really anything left for my character to explore. I miss the comradery of my buddies and going in every day. I still stay in touch with some of the guys. We were together for 10 years. We used to say that you forge friendships in high school that last a lifetime. We've been together twice as long as you were with your high school friends."

Talk about your role on "Close to Home?"

"I play the assistant D.A., I'm running the district attorney's office. It's a different kind of a character, he's from Manhatten, he's a pretty fast moving, high-paced guy with political aspirations. I'm not duking it out in a courtroom anymore, I'm running a team of lawyers. I've been working in the war room. It's a different take on things, he's an interesting character—he's fun. The schedule is not killing me, which is nice. I get to go in, do some stuff and I get some free time to have a life and spend some time with my children and do things I've always wanted to do."

You've done comedy and drama, which genre do you prefer?

"It's all interesting. People tell me that I'm a funny guy and I should be doing comedy. I didn't want to leap too far from where I had been. From what I can tell, from watching other careers, when people make giant leaps from what the audience is used to, it's hard for them to accept."

If you hadn't gone into acting, what do you think you'd be doing now?

"[laughs] I'd probably be a garbage man. I like riding on the back of the truck. I was never really drawn in any direction, so thank God I wound up with this. Nothing really seemed that interesting to me. I've always been a hard worker."

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

"That I'm only four foot one [laughs]! I lead a pretty boring life. I really don't do much other than beat myself up in the gym every day and go home and spend time with the family. I don't really go out much."

Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?

"Thank you for all your support over all these years. I'm really appreciative of my fans. I realize that it's because of them that I make my living."