Ellis was born in Harvey, Illinois, son of Tommie Lee Johnson (alive in 2017) and ... (not named in his 2017 obituary). His parents divorced. He was raised by his grandmother (possibly Alex Brown) in Alabama and later lived with his aunt (possibly Tartheaia Thompson).
Siblings include (living per 10 July 2017): Lakeeia Thomson, Tommie Lee Thompson, Babon Ellis, Maurice Turne, Tianna Thompson, Shaentika Beard and Yvonne Ellis.
He had one son, Breon Ellis.
He attended Thorn Ridge High School in Dolton, and later attended Oxford University and Columbia College in Chicago before graduating from the famed Juilliard School.
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