Last month, Canadian actor Eli Goree sat down with PUC students to discuss his experience working in Hollywood as an Adventist. With being typecast for roles, such as playing an athlete, he pushed against that. “I remember having a conversation with my team and not going for certain things, and a lot of it was because of my Adventist convictions,” said Eli.
He refused to do horror movies or nudity and wouldn’t use God’s name in vain in films. “I think that’s one thing artists don’t do enough of is putting up boundaries. You can’t really do art if you don’t have clear set guidelines of what it is you’re trying to do,” he said. “And when you are the art- when you’re an actor, you have to say, ‘okay, this is what I do, and this is what I don’t do.”
Eli wasn’t born into the Adventist church but attended church as an adult. “I really didn’t know a lot- I learned bit by bit,” shared Eli. “When I learned about the Sabbath, I put it in my contracts and said I’m going to keep the Sabbath.” At first, it was a problem with people telling him that if he kept the Sabbath, they would not hire him. When Eli got his first big opportunity in Hollywood (a role for the TV series The 100), he made sure not to work on Sabbath- but his contract stated otherwise, writing: will do best efforts. With confusion as to what that truly meant, Eli’s agent told him that he would be fine and taken care of, and it was written like that in the contract for legal purposes. Within the first week of shooting, the show made Eli shoot his biggest scene on a Friday night, which lasted till seven in the morning. “I was so tired I couldn’t go to church.”
While being on The 100, Eli couldn’t accept other major roles since the show had first right of refusal. His character was later killed off and the show didn’t pick up his option. “From that whole thing, it was an experience for me faith wise,” said Eli. “I was trying so hard to do everything for them and they weren’t trying to do anything for me. They were just focused on them.” He knew this would be the last time this happened and not work on Saturdays.
From that moment on, things started to pick up momentum. Eli screentest for movies such as Star Wars, met well-known directors and booked the movie Race (2016). “It was always in my contacts from then on, ‘he doesn’t work on Sabbath’”.
Eli is known for his award-winning portrayal of great American Olympian athlete Dave Albritton in Race (2016). He also starred in Regina King’s feature film directorial debut, One Night in Miami…, and his roles in TV Series The 100 (2014), Ballers (2018), Riverdale (2018), and Pearson (2019). Eli has a diploma in Film and Television acting from the Canadian Film Center for the Arts.