Elle Rae Morris grew up in Litchfield on horseback and broke into acting on the rodeo circuit, starting on the sets of Westerns.

Elle Rae Morris Submitted photo

She has a supporting role in a new movie out this week, “Not Now,” and says so far, it’s been an awesome ride, with more to come.

Sounds like you grew up around animals and on horseback? I grew up showing horses in 4-H and lived the farm life throughout my entire childhood. My whole family was always very involved with horses. We would be trail riding all over Maine with our horseback riding club, The Maine Trail Riders, from the time I was 4 years old. I went to Oak Hill High School and was a cheerleader all four years. I graduated from Thomas College with my bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing. Later, I fell in love with rodeo, and barrel racing, which led me to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo America.

Are you still a professional barrel racer? I was actively barrel racing until last year and I was splitting my attention between barrel racing and acting. Since then, my mare, Gem, has retired from rodeo and still lives in Texas with my best friend, Jess. Rodeo is one of those sports that is just so American. It’s nostalgic, and one of the best communities in the world. It’s a sport I am so proud to have been and will continue to be a part of.

Did you want to also act when you were young? Throughout my childhood I was always interested in acting and the entertainment industry, but I had no clue how to go about breaking into it. My local school only did musicals, which wasn’t where my interest laid at the time, so finding an avenue to act was difficult. After all, I was just a small-town farm girl from Litchfield, Maine, hardly someone with connections in “The Biz.” Ironically, through my love for rodeo and horses, I found my career in acting.

Living in Texas while rodeoing, I made a lot of great connections and was on several sets for Western films. These gave me my first taste of being on real sets and what it was really like to act. I fell in love and never looked back.

What were some of your first roles? Some of my first roles were in indie films shot in Texas. Mostly Western films, where I’d be a local townsperson or saloon girl with only a couple lines, or student films that you know will likely never see the light of day. Something I learned was that it didn’t matter the size of the production or the size of the role, you always learn something new. Just being on set and interacting with the crew, the cast, everyone is just the most amazing feeling.

The pandemic obviously hit the entertainment industry very hard, sets were shut down, projects scrapped, funding is just gone. It was difficult for everyone. Now that the industry is reopening, everyone is getting back on set. There’s this crazy energy in the air; everyone is just so excited to create. My agent convinced me that now was the perfect time to make the big move to LA — that I needed to be where all the big projects were being cast. I think audiences just ran out of content to watch from the pandemic so viewers are hungry for new TV shows and movies.

How grueling is it to break in to the industry? Learning to break into the entertainment industry is so difficult and confusing. It’s one of those industries where the roadmap is very unclear. I was lucky because I found some excellent mentors right at the start of my career which guided me along the right paths. The entertainment industry has this shiny glow surrounding it, this mystique that draws people in, from the outside it seems SOOOOO glamorous. But in reality, it’s being on set for 16-plus-hour days sometimes in the heat, the rain, the snow, in crazy wardrobe — wearing an uncomfortable corset, sometimes in special effects makeup — it’s all so insane . . . but if you love acting, then there’s nowhere else you’d ever want to be!

This job is sort of funny. You can suddenly have several auditions a day where you are just going nonstop, then all of a sudden there’s nothing. It’s very exhilarating, and difficult to predict. You learn not to get stressed when you do have these big auditions coming in — that’s where your preparation from your acting classes come in. So you can handle the pressure, the last-minute learning of several pages of lengthy dialogue and to bring these amazing characters to life.

Tell us a bit about “Not Now”: “Not Now” was such a great project to work on. It’s written and directed by Ethan Stephens. “Not Now” is a romantic drama that depicts what it’s like to meet the most perfect person for you at the wrong time. We’ve all been in this situation, so I think it’s something that everyone can relate to and enjoy. My character, Hailey, is in a complicated on again/off again relationship with her boyfriend Zayn and really shows how college, work, life and difficult relationships can change and test you.

Filming was truly amazing. We were filming with COVID protocols in place since productions had just been given the green light, so we had a COVID safety officer on set, temperature checks, masks, the whole shebang. It definitely changes how a set feels with the added precautions, but the end result of “Not Now” was definitely worth it. “Not Now” has its official red carpet movie premier Aug. 13 in College Station, Texas, where we filmed at locations on and around Texas A&M University and will be available on both YouTube and Amazon Prime Aug. 20.

Please finish this sentence: In five years, I’d like to be (blank): I hope I am a series regular on an awesome TV show or perhaps in an awesome film franchise. I’d love to be able to combine my love for horses and experience as an advanced equestrian with acting, so ideally I’d snag a great role where I could do both. The cool thing about this industry is it’s always changing and evolving. Nobody knows what is coming next — but I will say I’m excited for the ride.

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