In real estate, she's Ellen Murray, head of Charleston Premier Properties. Growing up West Ashley and residing downtown, she knows the market.
On the set, however, she’s Leigh Murray, a former model, sometime Hollywood actress, script consultant and producer who is working on a movie project about famed evangelist Billy Graham.
Ellen Leigh Murray has managed to juggle a career in real estate for the past decade while staying involved in the cinema, running a local business that helps prospective film writers polish up scripts.
Murray, who graduated from Middleton High School and the University of South Carolina, is from a real estate background. Her father Edward “Eddie” Murray was a developer and investor.
At age 13, Ellen took theater classes and was an usher at the Dock Street Theatre where she grew enamored with the acting profession.
She was a theater major at USC and was involved in modeling, eventually moving to the West Coast and using her middle name Leigh. According to a 1990s article in The Post and Courier, she was a soap opera actress before gaining her first producer credit in 1989 with “The Outside Woman” starring Sharon Gless and Scott Glenn.
Her next producing venture was “Stolen Women, Captured Hearts,” a made-for-TV movie on CBS, Janine Turner, known for turns on Dallas and Northern Exposure, headed the cast. The movie, based on a screenplay adapted from the non-fiction book “Pioneer Women,” revolves around a case where a frontier woman captured by plains Indians eventually marries one of the Native American. The movie was filmed on location in Kansas.
By the late 1990s, her parents were aging, and she returned to Charleston. She was drawn to real estate — in fact, her father once told her to abandon the screen for something secure: “You need to go to real estate school.”
Murray took classes to get her license. “I wouldn’t let him down.”
She started Charleston Premier Properties in 2004 and has two agents who work with her.
Interestingly, Murray says one of her recent movie projects stemmed from a connection she made in the real estate field. Listing agent on the sale of a college student’s home in Charleston, she got to know the wealthy Baltimore businessman involved in the purchase and sale of the house: the student was his daughter.
He was eager to back a film about Graham, a North Carolina native who advised presidents since Lyndon Johnson.
She’s reviewing a script, “Billy,” by writer Wesley Bishop. While she can handle some of the advance work from South Carolina, she says she needs to travel to California for a few months at some point to line up the Hollywood contacts needed to swing such a deal.
Her script consulting business, which charges $700 to $1,200 a project, has done well, Murray says. She works one on one with clients. She is also a judge for WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, which was based in Charleston in the late 1990s.
Juggling the disparate businesses is not that hard, she says. "I've done both for so long, it's second nature."