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Having worked in the industry since he was in the single digits, Eli Goree is finally discovering his time in the spotlight thanks to his starring role as Cassius Clay, i.e. Muhammad Ali, in Regina King's acclaimed feature directorial debut, One Night in Miami Based on the play of the same name by Soul's Kemp Powers, who also wrote the screenplay, this movie provides the rising star with a chance to flex his skills and adopt the role that he was born to play. But for many TV viewers, Goree is a familiar face thanks to his past work in Riverdale, The 100, and Ballers, to name only a few of his acting credits.
Before He Became An Actor, Eli Goree Was A Teen News Correspondent And A Radio Host
Even before he became a professional actor, it was clear that Eli Goree was set to be a dynamic personality. When he was only six years old, he started his career by appearing in Sesame Park, the Canadian version of Sesame Street. From there, Goree went on to host The Big Black Rap Show on the Canadian radio station, CKDU-FM. Only a few years later, the performer became a correspondent on the teen news series, Street Cents, on CBC. It was also that year that Goree became a freelance journalist for Canada Now.
That's an undeniably impressive resume, especially for someone who wasn't even an adult at the time. Even from the beginning, it was evident that Eli Goree had the drive to push himself as an entertainer and to excel with each creative challenge.
The Actor Also Does Stand-Up Comedy
Eli Goree is a natural performer, and his talents exceed the screen. In addition to being a fine actor, he's also an experienced stand-up comedian. When he's not working or training, Goree likes to frequent comedy clubs to (hopefully) get a few yuks out of people, as he noted in an interview with My Devotional Thoughts. While he doesn't perform comedy professionally, Goree has worked on his craft on the side and improved his stage presence in the process, and you can see that comedic confidence in some key scenes in One Night in Miami...
To watch Goree's stand-up circa 2012, check out the video below.
Eli Goree Has Expressed A Desire To Become A Pastor
As he notes in several interviews, faith is a key component of Eli Goree's life. The fundamentals of Christianity guide his perspective and insights, and it's understandable that, in another life, Goree would become a pastor. In an interview with Talk Nerdy With Us from 2016, Goree elaborates more about his dedication to faith and how he wants to spread the word of God as a devout Seventh Day Adventist Christian.
In the conversation, Eli Goree admitted that he still thinks about being a pastor, even though he's a professional actor, and how he really loves going to church, helping people, and being part of the community. Similar to his inspiration, Martin Luther King Jr., Goree considers becoming a pastor or a community leader to be a possibility in the days ahead. But as his acting career continues to pick up steam, it's not certain if that's something he still wants to pursue.
Eli Goree Received Important Life And Career Advice From The Rock
When you're starting out in this business, it's important to study your environments and learn as much as you can from your experienced peers. During his time on HBO's Ballers, where he played a recurring role, Goree had the opportunity to work alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, one of the biggest A-list stars on the planet. Certainly, that opportunity doesn't come every day. When you're working with someone that huge (both physically and professionally), you'll want to take away a few pointers.
When it came to life advice, Eli Goree noted in his interview with The Shadow League that The Rock taught him one key lesson: you shouldn't "count your chickens before they hatch." It took Dwayne Johnson years as a performer to earn his superstar status, and that came from a "lot of hard work" through "the process." Ultimately, Goree learned that you "have to embrace" that process and accept that getting the ball rolling isn't the only step. You have to keep pushing your way to the top.
Eli Goree Prepared To Play Muhammad Ali For A Long Time
In Eli Goree's view, he was born to play Muhammad Ali. The actor has many striking similarities to Cassius Clay, and he has been training himself and studying the boxing legend for a long time to adopt the role. Earlier in his career, Goree was set to lead Ang Lee's Thrilla in Manila, but as he did extensive training and research for the role, the movie fell through. Crestfallen, Goree used his expertise in the subject to star in the play Fetch Clay, Make Man, before he learned about Regina King's movie. Thanks to his skills and knowledge about the subject, Goree became an easy pick for the part, and he finally had the opportunity to play the late athlete.
In the process, Eli Goree put on 40 pounds of muscle, lost 20 pounds of fat, and spent many waking hours working his body into the athlete's shape. Certainly, all that effort and time paid off. His leading performance was hailed as a breakthrough. When discussing his hopes to someday play Muhammad Ali, he told Buzzfeed:
It was like something I really, really wanted, so I just decided there's gonna be other stories told about Muhammad Ali. He actually told me I favored him for a long time, so I just said I'm just going to keep working on playing him. I'm going to build all the tools to be able to play him better than anyone else. I got a dialect coach, I got a personal trainer, I got boxing coaches, and I would just tell all my writers on different shows I was working on that I box: 'If you can write that into the show — I want to work on my boxing.' But nothing really came up to play him.
His Riverdale Character Became A Boxer Based On His Training To Play Muhammad Ali
It might merely seem fitting that Munroe "Mad Dog" Moore, Eli Goree's character in Riverdale, is a boxer as well. But as it turns out, Goree's training to play Muhammad Ali was actually the key reason why his character put on the boxing gloves.
As the actor noted in a recent L.A. Times interview, Eli Goree was getting into fighting shape to eventually adopt this real-life part, and the Riverdale showrunners decided to make the most of his training by turning Mad Dog into a boxing champion. Certainly, the actor's physique and spirit are worth commending, and The CW series wanted to use Goree's growing experience in the ring to their benefit. Plus, the added experience inside the ring only helped Goree when it came time for him to play Cassius Clay in Regina King's movie.
Eli Goree Took Real Hits During The Boxing Scenes In One Night In Miami
Eli Goree knows how to pack a punch. When it came time to get in the ring to play Cassius Clay in One Night in Miami..., he wasn't simply mimicking the athlete's moves. The actor actually took part in some real boxing, and he subsequently took a few hits in the process. When you're working 16 hour days under the hot lights and through an intensely demanding sequence, you're definitely put through the wringer — quite literally, in this case.
As Eli Goree admitted in an interview with Gold Derby, the hits we see take were real. And the process kept him on his toes.
Like Muhammad Ali, it sounds like the actor was in it to win it, and he wasn't half-assing it. That tenacity made a big difference in the final product.
He Still Gets Recognized For The 100, One Of His Earliest Roles
As an up-and-coming actor, Eli Goree is finally watching his profile grow. His roles in Riverdale and One Night in Miami remain his most recognizable, though he has been establishing himself in a variety of films and TV shows over the past decade. On the big screen, Goree was seen in Godzilla (2014) and Race. On television, Goree appeared in Da Kink In My Hair, Dead of Summer, Legends of Tomorrow, GLOW, Pearson, and Ballers. But one performance that he's constantly remembered for is his role Wells on The 100.
While the actor only appeared in six episodes over the course of the CW series, Eli Goree still gets recognized for this early television appearance. Certainly, as he noted in an interview with TV Fanatic, he's proud of his work and he's happy to know that so many people connected with his character in the series. But he thinks it's a credit to the show's staying power that it remains so popular among viewers. Here's what Goree said:
I think the ultimate validation for an actor when it comes to whether or not your work meant anything is how the fans receive it. So that's definitely been the best part of it. Like when I walk in an airport, kids come up to me — often Wells is one of the characters I get more than any other and it was only for a few episodes. That means a lot.