Filming Top Gun: Maverick Flooded Jay Ellis With Emotional Memories Of Growing Up In A Military Family, Brought Him So Much Pride

Ready to meet the new Top Gun recruit cast? Over 35 years after the iconic film sent Tom Cruise flying Navy aircrafts, “Maverick” Mitchell is back now as a test pilot and flight instructor for Top Gun: Maverick. Among the new pilots of the U.S. Pacific Fleet is Jay Ellis’ Lieutenant Reuben "Payback" Fitch, who actually has a background in the military himself and recently spoke out about what it meant to him to be in the new sequel.  

While speaking to CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell about Top Gun: Maverick, the Insecure and Escape Room actor shared how growing up with a father in the Air Force brought insight into his Top Gun character. In his words: 

I think the thing for me was there was this pride and this respect and even responsibility, which I think everyone ended up feeling especially as we got to meet more of those pilots and more of the aviation community at large. But for me, I remember the first time we drove on base in North Island, I was like ‘Oh, this is my childhood.’ Like going through the gates, showing someone my ID, literally all these memories started to pop back up in my head. And I just had this sense of like, ‘Oh, I know that’s the BX, that’s the theatre, yep, there’s a subway on our base’. There was all this familiarity that immediately just kind of kicked in for me.

Ahead of the cameras rolling on Top Gun: Maverick, the actors were placed in a three-month bootcamp, reportedly set up by Tom Cruise, which included aerial aviation and other training. The movie was shot in San Diego, California at the Naval Air Station North Island along with another station in Oak Harbor, Washington. Ellis continued (also in the video above): 

I think I even found myself, with the exception of one night when we went out, I think I found myself very much being back on the kind of clock that I was on when I was a kid. You’re up at this time, you do this thing, you hear the horns in the morning. There were all these things that started to kick in. For me, it was just this immense pride and also the responsibility of wanting to portray men and women who sacrifice their lives and time away from their family every single day to protect this country.

Not only was Ellis’ father in the Air Force, his grandfathers and step-grandfathers were as well. The actor understood the sacrifice of being in the military as someone with firsthand memories about it, including often moving around a lot because of it. Per NBC News, Ellis said that Top Gun: Maverick allowed him to understand the ways in which people who fly jets in the Air Force “get chosen and how they trained to do it.”  

The movie, which found a perfect release date on Memorial Weekend, has already received high praise from critics, including from CinemaBlend’s Eric Eisenberg in our Top Gun: Maverick review, who called the movie a “visceral cinematic experience.” Alongside Jay Ellis’ involvement, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman and Ed Harris are among the new cast members. 

You will see a familiar face in Val Kilmer’s “Iceman,” who Tom Cruise “rallied” for amidst a mainly fresh cast that Jerry Bruckheimer was purposeful about in order to tell a “new chapter of the story." Top Gun: Maverick will follow Cruise’s Pete Mitchell training graduates for a specialized mission “no living pilot has ever seen,” and the Captain will have to face his past fears and come through for his team along the way. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.