Trey Ellis is an American Book Award-winning novelist, Emmy-nominated screenwriter and Columbia University professor.
His books, articles and blog posts — on fatherhood, politics, the black middle class, race relations, pop culture and much more — make him a familiar face on TV and radio shows, and in the pages of newspapers and magazines, as varied as “All Things Considered,” the New York Times, Playboy, Salon and the Huffington Post.
He wrote the screenplay for the HBO film “The Tuskegee Airmen”; completed a screenplay for Morgan Freeman, and adapted a novel for Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Spike Lee.
He’s lived in Italy, France and Japan. He speaks Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
He surfs, snowboards, and does advanced yoga.
And, since September, Trey Ellis has been a Westporter.
Growing up in Hamden, Trey “jumped over Fairfield County” on his forays into New York City. But he says he “always liked the idea of Westport.” When he remarried 2 years ago, his blended family drew him here.
He wanted room — and good schools — for his own 2 children, and their newest son. His wife, Amanda Lynne Freeman — who writes about parenting and relationships — is getting her Ph.D. in sociology at Boston College. And teaching at John Jay in New York.
Westport was a natural fit.
The fit became even more natural when — looking at rentals — Amanda mentioned to one homeowner that she was reading The Three Weissmans of Westport.
“My daughter wrote it!” replied Shirley Schine. (Trey then learned that her daughter, Cathleen Schine, now lives in Venice, California — where he also spent several happy years.)
So here he is. It’s been a wonderful move, Trey says.
“I like the peace and quiet. It’s amazing to look up at a red-tailed hawk, dodge deer, see a hedgehog — and then be at Columbia in less than an hour.”
He calls Westport “clean, progressive and artistic. There are great schools, and very pleasant people. I’m a booster of Westport.”
That may be because, when he and his wife were searching for rentals, they met so many Westport boosters.
“Everyone seemed to have moved here from the city. They all went so far out of their way to help us. It was almost like they’d gotten a hidden memo, to do whatever they could for us.”
Trey is black. His wife is white. Their child is Chinese. Though the specifics of their family are unusual, he says, “people here are open to everything. We’ve met Brazilians, Indians, you name it. There are a lot of international people, and a lot of people who have lived abroad.”
He worried how quickly his children would adapt. The answer: very quickly.
His 8th grade daughter and 5th grade son have gotten involved in school plays, soccer, dance and tennis. His kindergartener has plenty of play dates.
“There’s a lot of color in the schools,” Trey says. “It’s not necessarily black — but there is an international influence there too.”
And — just like New York — there are many blended families.
Though he has a seemingly endless number of projects — a new play premieres at Ford’s Theater in September, and he’s finishing another movie — he’s already looking ahead.
“The book I want to write is ‘My Gay Dad,'” Trey says. His father came out when Trey was 21, and died soon afterward of AIDS.
The book would combine familiar themes — masculinity, fatherhood, the black experience — with a son’s memories. “He taught me about sweetness and softness,” Trey says with pride.
Though he loves Westport, and his family easily adapted to life here, Trey misses some elements of urban life.
“New York is magical at night,” he says. “And museums — it’s hard to find time to get there. I thought I’d have time to do all that. I’m still looking for the perfect balance. My life revolves around the train schedule now.”
He laughs. “I’ve become the guy who races through Grand Central.”
Still, he’s having a great time. He works on the train. He works in the quiet hours in Westport. His family is happy.
And for Christmas, they got him a kayak and paddleboard.