Nelsan Ellis Talks True Blood At The London MCM Expo

November 5, 2009 by  

88028-NelsanEllis_Large_JPainterYoungIn True Blood, the character of Lafayette has taken on new life beyond his book existence, and Nelsan Ellis couldn’t be more pleased. The Julliard-trained actor is very different from the sassy, cross-dressing Merlotte’s fry cook, but that just makes the job all the more fun. At the MCM Expo in London, Nelsan answered audience questions and received lots of cheers from fans excited about the possibility of some Lafayette-Eric dream scenes.

In the beginning, Nelsan thought Lafayette would meet the same fate as his character had in Book 1 of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Series. He read the books before auditioning, and when he got the part, he signed a one-year contract with the understanding that he would die after 12 episodes. Nelsan says he was “cool with that,” but he was thrilled when he found out that he was surviving:

“[I was] elated! Because I still had a job! Alan Ball told me after we had the table read of the twelfth episode. So, up until that point, I thought I was dead. He went, ‘You know you’re not dying, right?’, and I said, ‘I didn’t, but thanks for telling me!’ “

That turn of events is just a testament to what a fantastic actor Nelsan is and the way that he channels Lafayette. Alan didn’t want to lose him from the show and viewers were overjoyed when they discovered that he was alive in the season two premiere. Nelsan is very flattered when people appreciate his work. I think we can all agree that he deserved to keep his job because he’s so good at it! He really enjoys getting to be bold and crazy as Lafayette:

“Every chance I get to where I could be something that’s not me, I jump at it. Because I’m guarded and I have these rules on how I should behave, but whenever I get to jump out of those rules and go f-ing crazy, I do! Lafayette is a dream role for me.”

His favorite scene to play was the AIDS-burger scene, which he thought was really well written and allowed him to show off his toughness. To create the character, he gathered inspiration from a variety of places:

“It was a collaboration. We all threw in some ideas. The scarf thing is ’cause my momma used to wear a lot of scarves. I think there’s some Prince influence in there. We did research, went to a whole lot of gay clubs, we’d go down on the strip, so we just came up with it. We also threw in some ideas into this stew of his wardrobe.”

The most difficult stuff to portray has been the post-traumatic stress disorder of the second season. That was tough for Nelsan because he was used to Lafayette being fun and then had to shift to being broken down by the disorder. Working on True Blood has allowed Nelsan to bond with his cast and crew and to learn a lot, as well. He has a close relationship with Rutina Wesley who plays Tara, especially because they went to school together, and he has also become good friends with Alexander Skarsgard. Nelsan is making use of all the opportunities he can to learn from Alan Ball:

“He’s a god among men. He really is a genius at what he does. I get to rub elbows with him on a daily basis. He writes some of the episodes, and he directs some of the episodes, so I end up being a sponge, soaking up all his genius. When he directs you – and I’m like, this dude has won Oscars – he knows what he’s doing.”

Nelsan adds so much flavor to True Blood with his portrayal of Lafayette! It will be amazing to see what else happens to him season three and beyond, especially since it will be a surprise even to fans who have read the books.


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