Local temple’s cantor makes television debut playing a rabbi

Temple Beth Ami’s cantor Kenny Ellis stands with "Curb Your Enthusiasm" creator and star Larry David after he guest starred on the show. Courtesy of Kenny Ellis.

For eight years, Kenny Ellis has served as Temple Beth Ami’s cantor, or singer, in Santa Clarita, and he’s eager to take on the role of rabbi this week.

Though, that will be exclusively on television screens.

Ellis was cast as a rabbi performing funeral services in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers,” both premiering this week.

“It’s a nice feeling of accomplishment,” Ellis said. “It is the first time I’ve gotten anything this close together.”

In fact, Ellis said he has been overwhelmed by the publicity surrounding his appearances and he has seen people talking about him guest starring on the shows online.

Ellis has not seen the episodes yet and will watch them for the first time with the rest of the world.

Being a standup comedian and comedy fan, Ellis said doing the part on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was especially exciting because he has always enjoyed watching the show.

It was not his first time meeting creator and star Larry David, as the two of them were starting out in standup at the same time in the 1970s and both performed at the Improv and Catch a Rising Star comedy clubs in New York.

“We were young, we were trying to find our way,” he said.

This background in improv helped Ellis since “Curb” does not have any scripts and scenes develop in the moment.

“It’s exciting to see how the scene unfolds just based on an idea Larry has,” Ellis said.

When the cameras were not rolling, Ellis said he enjoyed talking to David about the friends they had in common and their experiences in New York.

Working on the “Law & Order” set was fun as well, and Ellis said he was especially grateful he to spend time, talk and eat with actress Edie Falco.

“She was so sweet to us,” he said. “She was a real person.”

Temple Beth Ami’s cantor Kenny Ellis stands with “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers” actress Edie Falco after he guest starred on the show. Courtesy of Kenny Ellis.

Playing a rabbi was easy for the actor since he spends so much time in his real life with one.

“By being a real cantor and clergy, I was using my experience and some liturgy,” the cantor of 27 years said. “I was able to do what I normally do. It’s going to be authentic.”

In both episodes, he performed a memorial prayer for funeral services, though he said if he were really a rabbi he would prefer to perform weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Having worked closely with Rabbi Mark Blazer at Temple Beth Ami, Ellis joked that he would get the rabbi a television role as a cantor.

An Agoura Hills resident, Ellis came to California eight years ago to pursue his acting career.

Ellis hopes to land a recurring role on a show as a rabbi, doctor, lawyer or dad.

His episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will premiere on Sunday, Oct. 22 at 10 p.m. on HBO and “Law & Order” will premiere on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Santa Clarita locals can see Ellis at the Westfield Valencia Town Center performing songs from his “Hanukkah Swings!” big band holiday album during the annual menorah lighting.

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