Doug Ellin, the creator of the renowned HBO series “Entourage,” visited Drexel Oct. 16 to discuss the show and provide insights as to how he got into the entertainment industry. The Bossone Research Center’s Mitchell Auditorium was filled to capacity with diehard fans and curious spectators who may have never seen a single episode. For over an hour and a half, Ellin captivated the crowd before him with stories and jokes that left all who came satisfied and glad that they went.
The event opened to a big round of applause as Ellin took the stage. The crowd was then shown a 10-minute segment of an HBO tribute episode to “Entourage.” The special showed how Ellin had a close relationship with the actors who portrayed Turtle, E, Vince and Johnny Drama, as well as original audition tapes of those same actors. After the clip was finished, Karen Curry, the interviewer, questioned Ellin at length regarding how the show got started, casting, and where he got his inspiration for the characters themselves and the outrageous storylines. For instance, after HBO agreed to do the show, Ellin spent two and a half years writing multiple drafts of the pilot episode before HBO liked one enough to begin shooting it. And as for where he got his inspiration, Ellin said that his and executive producer Mark Wahlberg’s friends from high school and his experiences back home provided the ideas behind both the characters and plotlines of each episode.
As the interview continued, Ellin began to open up more about the origins of some of the show’s more remarkable characters and episodes as well as how the show gained such widespread popularity. From the get-go, Ellin said he wanted to cast Jeremy Piven for the role of fast-talking agent Ari Gold. Piven turned out to be a perfect fit for the exuberance and guile that the character had, and he went on to win three Primetime Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in his role as Ari. Another unique story is about how Adrian Grenier found himself being cast as the show’s lead character, Vince. As it turns out, Grenier used to be an intern in Wahlberg’s manager’s office and only got into serious acting when that manager, Stephen Levinson, recommended him for the role of Vince on “Entourage.”
Later on in the discussion, Ellin pondered about how “Entourage” turned out as popular as it did. The main theory that he posed was that everyone could relate to at least one of the members of the “entourage.” Most people could look through their group of friends and just say, “Well, he’s definitely our Turtle” or “He’s got a little Johnny Drama in him,” because viewers could connect so easily with the people they saw on television.
The second half of Ellin’s visit was spent doing a lively question-and-answer segment. Dozens of people raised their hands in hopes of getting to ask Ellin a question, but only 15 or so were lucky enough to be chosen. Questions ranged from what his current favorite TV shows are (“Breaking Bad,” “Homeland” and “Mad Men”) to how Bob Saget and Gary Busey are in person (Saget is a nice guy, Busey is a little eccentric), and finally what it was like to be on the set the day the series finale was shot (extremely emotional). Ellin talked about how he started out working in the mailroom of a production company and got noticed by a major executive while doing stand-up comedy, thus leading to his big break into film and writing.
Ellin’s closing statement told students that if they want to break into the entertainment industry they should have some skills and make sure that they are doing what they love. Ellin himself seemed to be enjoying where he ended up as he was swarmed by adoring fans with memorabilia in hand after the event ended.
The Kal and Lucille Rudman Institute for Entertainment Industry Studies hosted the event.