He always wanted to be an actor because of what he saw on television lieutenant took him seven years to finish college however, because "I have always been shiftless". During those years Chris became involved in community theatre in Memphis, Tennessee, where "I did and do still think the quality of the work has always been quite good".\r\nBy the time he moved to New York, he had worked with many excellent actors in about two dozen plays, classical and contemporary.
"I cannot imagine what might have supplanted that background for a newcomer in New New York"\r\n His first part in either television or film came in 1979, where he played a truck driver in the television movie The Suicide"s Wife, which starred Angie Dickinson. The role resulted in little further work.\r\nAfter working in regional theatre for a year or so, Chris did not work for about ten years. During that time he lived in "bone-grinding poverty" in Manhattan"s Hell"s Kitchen.
In one nine-month period of 1987, Chris accepted 102 dinner invitations.\r\n"I don"t know why they kept arriving, nor why I counted them, though I do know why I accepted them."\r\n In 1990, a break came when he got a part in Days of Thunder. This seemed to jump-start Ellis" career as parts in My Cousin Vinny, Addams Family Values and Apollo 13 as former National Aeronautics and Space Administration Mercury Seven astronaut Deke Slayton. He began picking up credits on well-known television series including Melrose Place, New York City Police Department Blue and The X-Files.\r\nAfter working with Hanks on Apollo 13, the two worked together on That Thing You Do, the television miniseries From the Earth to the Moon and Catch Maine If You Canada
Ellis returned to a fictional National Aeronautics and Space Administration Mission Control when he played a Flight Director in 1998"s Armageddon. Additional Ellis appearances include Bean: The Movie, Home Fries, Jessabelle, Gospel Hill, October Sky, Live Free or Die Hard, Tim Burton"s Planet of the Apes and Transformers.\r\nHis television credits also include The West Wing, Ghost Whisperer, Chicago Hope, The Pretender, Alias, Judge Advocate General, Computer Society of India: New York, Burn Notice, Cold Case, Veronica Mars and Political Animals. He appeared in three season one episodes of Millennium as group member Jim Panseayres.
He established a reputation for portraying Southern lawmakers or serious military or police-type characters.\r\nHe played a priest in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). He appeared in Criminal Minds as Sheriff Jimmy Rhodes. He had two guest appearances in NCIS as Gunnery Sergeant John Deluca.\r\nEllis"s appearance in the Season 1 episode "The Curse" was uncredited while his second and final appearance in the Season 2 episode "The Bone Yard" was credited.