WASHINGTON — Aunjanue Ellis, who portrays Miranda Shaw in ABC's "Quantico," has starred in 2011's "The Help" and plays Nancy Turner in the upcoming slave rebellion film "The Birth of a Nation," is heading the the "Take It Down America" rally Tuesday -- Flag Day -- on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to bring attention to the Confederate emblem included in the Mississippi state flag.
Ellis has backed Grenada, Mississppi-based attorney Carlos Moore, who filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant under the 13th and 14th Amendments in an effort to remove the flag, which Moore said is a "symbol of hate, white supremacy and division in our country."
Although her face may be familiar, many probably recognize Ellis from the statement dresses she wears on the red carpet.
Those dresses -- which have been designed by Ellis herself, some with collaboration from other designers -- have been used to make a statement about the Confederate flag, which is included within the Mississippi state flag.
Her first dress, an off-white number with a plunging neckline and the bold black words, "Take it down Mississippi " alongside a handprint in red paint, was worn at the 47th NAACP Image Awards in February. Ellis designed it with Samantha Rattner and Tina Thor.
The second, a deep red dress of a similar design, with "President Obama take it down" in bold black letters was designed by Ellis herself and worn to the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards in March.
Ellis said a third dress, which she wore to the 41st Annual Gracie Awards in May did not fully achieve the design she intended. The champagne-colored dress, which had the same message to Obama, was made by Mississippian Mary Thomas. Ellis told Cox Media Group's National Content Desk she sacrificed the look for the message.
"But I want to work towards getting a design worthy of the message," she said.
Ellis, who still lives in McComb, Mississippi, and has lived in the state since she was 13, said she was motivated to spearhead the rally to draw national attention.
"I feel that we have to take more of a national approach to this problem of the flag," she said. "This is beyond the state."
Although the Ellis works as an actress and producer, she didn't worry about the effect making such a bold statement would have on her career. "I never second-guessed," Ellis said. "I have to stand up for what I believe."
But Ellis' stance has affected her career. Since she decided not to shoot any more films in her home state until its flag changes, job opportunities have gone down.
"Because of my personal pledge to not shoot in Mississippi, I can't produce my own projects here," Ellis said. "If and when a great role comes along and it's shot here, I can't do it. I've shot here several times and it's been so special for me to do. But not again until that flag comes down."
Still, Ellis is hopeful about the rally.
"I want to see more opportunities for discussion. We have to make the case that … the flag of Mississippi represents hatred and slavery," she said. "This needs to be a national dialogue. One that deserves attention from Congress and President Obama."
When asked why she took up this cause, Ellis points to her nephew and niece, whom she says are "the loves of my life."
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