Monday, August 16, 2010

Breathing Life Into Lafayette: The Nelsan Ellis Interview

He was supposed to be dead and gone by the end of Season One but True Blood’s Lafayette Reynolds was too colorful, fearless and loved to just disappear into television oblivion. Last week, Fangirl got to join in on a chat with the man who brings Merlotte’s flamboyant cook to life, the one and only, Nelsan Ellis.

Nelsan Ellis was born in Chicago and grew up in a tough suburb in Alabama, he returned to Chicago for high school and discovered theater. Eventually, he found himself in Julliard where not only honed his acting skills but wrote an award winning play called Ugly.

Ellis considers himself a “boring person” compared to his beloved True Blood character. He says, “Lafyatte is bold, I’m a little bit shy. Lafayette is gay, I’m not.” He continues to explain the appeal of Lafayette who likewise deals V and engages in some rather questionable internet activities: “I love his boldness, I love that he is who he is, he’s unapologetic, I love that he walks, talks and acts absolutely the way he wants to, regardless of who judges him.”

Having read and watched several other interviews with Mr. Ellis, I truly wanted to find out something I didn’t know about him. My cousin Hank, who’s a bartender, came up with this simple question: If V (vampire blood) were an actual, real life drug, would you do it? I got a quick answer to that—“Absolutely, I would be a crackhead V-addict.”

Then again, who wouldn’t love heightened senses and extra strength?

While Lafayette can be a knockout in his large tank tops, elegantly tied bandanas, his L necklace and false eyelashes—you don’t want to be messing with him because he can he can throw a mean punch. I wanted to know where Nelsan, the actor, learned to throw down, punch and curse.

He reveals, “I have a tomboy momma. I kind of learned how to punch and fight from my momma. I learned how to curse from my momma.”

Aside from visiting gay bars, “I built (Lafayette) from behaviors my mother and sisters have—watching my mother and sisters, how sort of colorful and crazy they are, and I incorporate that into Lafayette.”

That said, his mother has never heard him swear. “My mother has never seen the show” he likewise adds, “in the South, you’re taught not to swear in front of your parents.”

Early this year, Ellis appeared in film called “The Soloist” about an LA Times’ writer’s relationship with an extraordinarily talented, homeless street musician. The film starred Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx and was directed by Joe Wright. Of his working experience with Downey, he says, “I particularly like Robert because he treated me like I was his son, he sort of took me under the wing and taught me all about acting during the shoot…Robert Downey Jr. is a beast when it comes to preparation. The man knows the whole script on the first day of the shoot including your lines and everybody’s lines.”

Next up, he plays a character named Eddie Sweat opposite Diane Lane and John Malkovich in a Disney film called “Secretariat” based on the name of a race horse who won the Triple Crown in 1973.

“I’d like to be all over the board in terms of what kind of character I’d like to play. And the furthest away from me the better because as I said, I’m a boring person.”

Ellis may say that about himself but surely, he can’t say that about his career.

The remaining episodes of True Blood Season 3 air every Monday night at 9pm on HBO and HBO HD with encore episodes Thursdays at 10:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm.


  1. Cristina Peczon-RodriguezAugust 16, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    i'm so jealous you were able to interview him!!

  2. Oh well. I am grateful as I missed the man at Comic Con. He's great and I can't wait to see what other kind of trouble Lafayette will get into the rest of the season and the next one.

    His new boyfriend Jesus can ID Chonggo and Elegua on Lafayette's altar. So...I think that means something ominous.

  3. Hey Karen,

    Nice post! :3 I actually LOOOOOOOOOVE his character a lot. Wish I could ask him where he got his false lashes, they look faaaaaab - and for a straight man, Nelsan REALLY knows how to rock 'em. ♥

    I really, REALLY hope they don't kill him off! ;0;

  4. They tried once, I don't think they'll ever want to. He is a joy to watch on screen thanks for posting!