How Insecure Star Jay Ellis Lost 15 Lbs. to Play a Character Training for a Marathon

To get into character for season two of Insecure, Jay Ellis went all out.

The actor, who plays Issa Dee (Issa Rae)’s ex-boyfriend Lawrence on the HBO series, took up running since his character is training for a marathon on the show.

“There’s no way Lawrence could have started the season at 200 lbs. and ended the season at 200 lbs. which is what my weight was,” Ellis, 35, explains to PEOPLE. “I didn’t feel like I was being honest to the character if I didn’t do it. And I wanted that challenge as an actor.”

So Ellis gradually incorporated the exercise into his routine. “For someone who is not a runner at all, I started at a mile a day and then I got up to 5 miles a day, running four, five days a week,” says Ellis, who lost 15 lbs. by the end of filming season two. “I was running somewhere between 18 and 24 miles a week.”  He also relied on boxing as a “big part” of his cardio.

This wasn’t the first time Ellis underwent a body transformation for the role. At the beginning of season one, Lawrence “hadn’t worked out and was just comfortable,” says Ellis. To reflect this, the actor – who was coming off playing a football player on The Game –stopped exercising and ate things like pasta and bread. As his character slowly started getting into shape, Ellis did as well.

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“As we went through season one, I started to cut a lot of that back, so I would cut my carbs down to like 20% of my diet and then the rest of it was protein. I cut out refined , and as much sugar as I could. Natural like fruit became my dessert,” he says.

Going into season two, Ellis took his diet even farther and accounted for all the running he was doing. “I cut meat out,” Ellis explains. “You need carbs when you’re running long distance, so I would eat carbs only on the days I was running – the complex stuff that would give me some energy. On days I wasn’t running it was purely vegetables and fish.”

Although Ellis is not running as much (now, he runs 3-5 miles two days a week) and is “trying to gain a little bit” of weight back (he’s current at 190 lbs.), he loved the benefits of his new found workout. “I will say I feel light and great with the weight that I lost,” he says. “I wouldn’t have expected that. I look in the mirror and say, ‘man, I’m skinny.’ But I feel better, I don’t feel sluggish. I find that I’m less lathergic, less tired.”




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