Ellen Hollman grew up surrounded by her performers. The Detroit-born actress’s parents are classic musicians and her father, Hart Hollman, still performs as a violist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. However, it wasn’t until she was in her late teens that the entertainment industry started to call Hollman’s name.
“I grew up watching that and was amazed about what goes on behind the curtains,” said Hollman. “I was so used to that world, it wasn’t until around 19 or so took some classes.”
Hollman ultimately found herself in Los Angeles, where she picked up some small roles for both TV shows “The O.C.,” “NCIS” and “Malcolm in the Middle,” as well as roles in the films “Asylum” and “Road House 2.” She eventually landed a series regular role on the Starz show “Sparticus,” playing the role of Saxa, a German slave that ultimately joins the rebellion.
“I would definitely say that ‘Sparticus’ put me on the map and solidified my grounding in the action drama genre,” said Hollman. “It was an incredible role to play female gladiator, and something I’ve embraced ever since. I’ve been able to find these powerful female roles I am fortunate to embody.”
Hollman has since made a name for herself in the realm of action and drama, appearing in films like “Justice” (2017) and “The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power” (2015) and episodes of shows like “Hawaii 5-0.” Hollman recently wrapped on “The Matrix 4” — which is set to release in December 2021 — her role in which is undisclosed at this time.
Though the action genre tends to lean towards a male-dominated category in the industry, Hollman believes that the tables are starting to turn. Hollman says her latest role in the new action thriller film “Army of One” really helps with changing that narrative.
“My goal isn’t for people to say, ‘that’s a woman on screen.’ I want them to say, ‘That’s a person on screen. You forget that you are watching a person, you are watching a person fill out this revenge. But there is a glass ceiling need to be shattered,” said Hollman. “I grew up with brothers, most friends were boys, but I never felt less than. I was like a kitten playing with wolves because no one told her she was a kitten. So even with job after job of being surrounded by male energy, it doesn’t even cross my mind that I don’t belong. It actually enabled me to where I am today.”
In “Army of One,” Hollman plays Brenner Baker, who stumbles upon an illegal drug compound. Ather the drug dealers, one of whom is played by Hollman’s husband Stephen Dunlevy, kill Baker’s husband and leave her dead, Baker uses her skills as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army’s 75th Ranger Division to become a one-woman killing machine taking out everyone in her path.
When Hollman signed on as the lead in “Army of One,” she knew that she had to dig deeper into the project. Hollman had previously worked with the film’s director Stephen Durham in the past, leading her to be signed on as a writer and producer of the film.
“I came on board late in the game, they had so much in place already in terms of the script. When Stephen approached me to be lead, I wanted to have my claws in every category, which meant a big rewrite, revamping my dialogue, redesigning action,” said Hollman. “As a producer, ‘Army of One’ was much smaller than I was accustomed to working on, but all of this allowed us to elevate what was already there.”
For Hollman, the multitasking part of wearing multiple hats in “Army of One” is second nature to her. She’s used to going, in her words, “a million miles an hour” and is obsessed with the challenge that comes with it.
“There’s a heart-wrenching scene where my character is burying her husband. It’s a very dramatic scene, I had to rip it duct tape off of my mouth and break the zip ties on my wrists. But in that particular scene, that was a night shoot — we started a 7 p.m. and went until 5 a.m.,” said Hollman. “It was very draining. But while shooting, I’m also thinking of things like lighting and continuity. As soon as Stephen yelled cut, I would soak up the tears and jump into action. I immediately put on a thousand hats. I did not know how to do otherwise.”
“Army of One” debuted online on Dec. 15 and has since then has been garnering many positive reviews.
“I am beyond elated with the reviews, I didn’t know what to expect because I came on later in the game. In regards to crew and post, there were a lot of aspects that I had no participation in, though I had a lot of influence in the editing room,” said Hollman. “I was so laser-focused on getting it to the level that I operate at, you almost forget what it looks like as a whole. A lot of women approach me asking about a sequel, saying that they felt so empowered that [my character’s] sexuality didn’t make her strong.”
“Army of One” is available on iTunes, Vudu, Xbox, Google play, Amazon, DirecTV, Dish Network, Fandango Now, iNDEMAND, and DVD.