Welsh-born actor Tom Ellis has been entertaining people ever since birth.

"I have a twin sister, and when we were born in Cardiff at the University of Wales hospital -- it's a big training hospital -- we were the heaviest twins born on record," he says during an interview at a Beverly Hills coffee bar.

"I was 9 pounds, 3 ounces, and my sister was 7 pounds, 5. My dad said, 'When you were born, there was a crowd of about 20 people (taking in) this astonishing achievement.' And he said, 'So you kind of came out to an audience.' "

Now Ellis, 35, is back in the medical arena once again, this time playing renegade Hollywood doctor William Rush on the USA channel's edgy drama "Rush" (9 p.m. Thursdays). Dr. Rush has unholy alliances and an appetite for drugs that makes Hugh Laurie's Dr. House seem like Mother Theresa.

Though Ellis has acted professionally in Britain since 2001 -- including roles in "Dr. Who," the BBC soap opera "EastEnders" and the sitcom "Miranda" -- he has long wanted to test his appeal in this country. He has traveled to the States for lots of auditions, but none of them came to fruition, until "Rush."

After getting a look at a "Rush" script, Ellis recalls, "Three pages in I said, 'I want to do this.' "

The production team invited him to send an audition tape.

"I had a funny feeling about it. I said, 'I'm going to make this tape, and I think I'm going to hear from somebody,'" he recalls. "Lo and behold, within 24 hours, I get a call from (executive producer) Jonathan Levine, saying he loved my tape and he wanted me to do the job."


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Acting was an unexpected career choice for Ellis. Raised in Bangor, Wales, he showed interest in music as a child, playing trumpet and later french horn. His father, Chis Ellis, was a pastor. During high school, the younger Ellis, by then living with his family in Sheffield, England, discovered his love for acting almost by accident.

At age 17, while contemplating a career in sports medicine, he says, "my English teacher came up and said, 'I run the theater studies group. I need some boys in the group because I've got 12 girls and no boys.' I said, 'Just stop right there -- 12 girls and one boy?' I went to a couple of these classes and really, really enjoyed it."

Ellis was so convincing playing a role in one of the teacher's after-school productions that the mother of a friend, a woman who had worked professionally as an actress, offered to tutor the young thespian on how to prepare for the stringent tryouts he would face to get into drama school. Afterward, much to his surprise, he was accepted at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

"I remember the day I got a letter in the post saying I got a place at drama school, and my mum and dad bringing it into my bedroom. They said, 'You've got something! You've got something.' I opened it, and we all cried together. It was great."

He landed an agent and a job during the second term of his final year at drama school. At first, things his new career went very well, but after two years the work slowed. "I had my first dry period where I didn't work for about six months," he says.

At that time his mother was managing a doctor's office in Bristol, England. Ellis took a job there as a receptionist.

"I was answering phones and meeting and greeting people," he says. "It was quite funny because everyone used to assume ... that I was a doctor. They're not used to a man answering the phone as the receptionist. People wouldn't even let me get a word in edgeways.

"I look back on those moments," he continues, "and think those are the things that make you better ... as an actor. Anything rooted in reality makes you a better actor."

After a short time, Ellis returned to acting, winning acclaim for his role in "Miranda," which premiered in 2009 and is still running.

He says he loves living in this country and starring in "Rush," but the downside was last year's breakup of his marriage to actress Tamzin Outhwaite, and his separation on this side of the Atlantic from his three daughters, ages 9, 6 and 2.

"It's a bittersweet experience being over here," he says. "It's happening because ... this is what I've always wanted to do. But I haven't seen my kids for months, and that's hard. They're back in London. As soon as I finish (shooting), I'll take a little vacation and have some 'us' time."