Actor, Singer Elijah Kelly plays “Sunny,” a lively elf in the magical movie “Strange Magic,” who happens to have a secret crush on his best fairy friend, Dawn. At a recent interview with Elijah, he treated us with a fabulous performance of, “Say Hey (I Love You),” which happens to be on the movie’s rocking soundtrack. It made me laugh, and reminded me to be in the moment when Elijah told us to put our phones down, and stop taking photos (hard to shake my blogger ways). I could sense his passion for his craft. He wowed us with his exuberant personality, amazing voice, and his desire to give back to his hometown!
Here are a few highlights from our interview, his take on love, along with his project outside of performing.
Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to voice Sunny?
EK: I’ve never done a voiceover, so it was a little bit of a challenge because Sunny is hyper, and super into everything that he does. So, I thought that it was gonna be so easy; I thought it was gonna be a piece of cake. But, I would go in there and guarantee you, I would leave, lightheaded and sweaty from all, the running and everything. It was like P90X. It was like, bringing it to life and understanding the world that Sunny lives in, I see him sort of the nucleus of trying to get everything together, and pulling everybody together, and trying to save the day, and messing up the day, it’s a lot like me.
Are there any themes in the movie that you relate to or think people will connect with?
EK: I think that people will connect for fighting for what you love, because as you can see that everybody goes through a lot of trouble to be able to grasp the love of their life. And, I think that love is so complicated. I think that the wiring of love is just so weird, and the fact that people can go to the ends of the Earth to capture something like that is very inspirational. The subject matter is universal and it’s timeless, whether we’re talking about a divide in America or we’re talking about what’s going on over in Paris, not to be so serious but love eradicates a lot of those issues.
What was your, your favorite song to perform in Strange Magic?
EK : Well, actually my favorite song in Strange Magic isn’t there anymore. it was a song called, Hold On, I’m Coming, [SINGS]. But my favorite song in the movie is not even a full song. It’s when the little birdies sing, Gotcha Looking So Crazy Right Now.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town called LaGrange, Georgia. It’s about forty-five minutes south of Atlanta, right on the Georgia/Alabama line. My musical background started in church. I grew up in church all my life. My mom was in ministry; my dad was in ministry, so we, we had a traveling singing group that we would go all around the southeast to different churches and we would just sing and congregate.
Were you given the freedom to improvise in this project?
EK : They were so gracious in allowing you bring the character to life in your way. The funny thing was, the first time I came up here all the elves, in the forest, they were all little white elves. And I was like, okay, somebody’s gonna have to get some tanning lotion, put in a super soaker and just spray everybody. When that happened, you wanna put a little flavor in there and a little swag in there; I think Sunny has that.
Are there are any similarities between you and Sunny?
EK: Sunny doesn’t quit. I’ll tell you a bit of personal information. Over the Christmas holidays, both my laptops were stolen; hard drives were stolen, all of this stuff, and I had to, do these police reports and everything, and literally everything that I have worked on in 2014 had seemingly vanished. Once you understand that there’s a task at hand, you can’t stop until that task is finished. So throughout adversity, throughout trial, you have to keep going, and I think that’s something that Sunny carries.
What’s the difference between doing a voice for an animated feature versus like what you did in Hairspray or even singing?
EK: the difference between doing a voice over in a movie and a real movie is you can literally look horrible [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. You can look like crap. You can just go in the studio and be the most disgusting looking person ever, but nobody will ever see you. But Hairspray, you’ve gotta do hair and makeup, Red Tails; I wore a big, thick mustache for Red Tails, and it that’s pretty much the
The aesthetic of the work that goes into it, I really feel like voiceover is a bit more difficult because you’re creating a universe, and you’re reacting to a universe that you don’t get to see that’s really difficult.
What is it that you love about working with George Lucas?
EK : I’m glad you asked that question because, I never really got to tell him, but George has surpassed what we are on Earth. He’s become an idea. It’s like every time I come here, I get so inspired because everything that we’re sitting on, everything that we drove up on was spawned from an idea. And when you have an idea, that you’re convicted about, and you can change the world from that idea, you don’t stray away from it, and you dedicate your life to that idea.
So every time I’m around him, it reinvigorates the passion for art in me that it only takes one thing. It only takes one idea. It only takes one thought to pretty much change your universe, that’s why I love working with George because I’m constantly reminded of that. Thanks, George.
EK : I’m currently producing an album for a group- it’s a Somalian duo- their names are called Faarrow. they’re the first, young ladies from their country to get a national record deal, or international record deal they’re signed to Warner Bros., and I’m producing, songwriting and pretty much the whole package of their record; and I’m working on my own album.
Elijah Kelly is a philanthropist, but I don’t know much about what your philanthropy work is. Is, can you explain…
EK : I have a foundation called the Elijah Kelley Foundation, and basically what we do is I try to be a liaison between underprivileged kids back from where I’m from and their dreams in arts and entertainment. During the tenure that we’ve had the non-profit, I’ve given out four scholarships over the last five years, with students from low-income housing that are going on to pursue careers in performing arts, from the Savannah College of Art and Design to a small great art school in Georgia called Gordon College.
Kelly plans on visiting his old high school, Troup High School, and take the K through 12 classes to see Strange Magic.
Strange Magic is rated PG and opens in theaters on Friday, January 23.
* We attended an all-expense paid trip hosted by Touchstone Pictures and Lucasfilms. Our opinions are own.