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Nelsan Ellis

Nelsan Ellis


Harvey, Illinois, USA

Birth Name

Nelsan Narie Ellis


  • Nelsan Ellis on True Blood from Season 4.
  • Nelsan Ellis in Season Three of True Blood.
  • Nelsan Ellis stars in Season Two of True...
  • Nelsan Ellis stars in Season Two of True...
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Nelsan Ellis is an American film, television, and stage actor and award-winning playwright who is best known as the effeminate yet macho Lafayette Reynolds, a short-order cook at Merlotte's diner on True Blood. He was born at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Illinois but moved to Bessemer, Alabama…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

  • Quotes

    • Nelsan Ellis: Violence, in reality, is strikingly different than from what you do on the set. I can walk down the street and see someone with that energy. They don't have to be physical at that moment, but if I see that same look I saw in people when I was growing up, that will shake me a little bit.

    • Nelsan Ellis: (on performing in plays during high school) It was my first experience being at a school where you had teenage black men who were serious about stuff, and you had these teachers who cared about the students and paid attention. I was, like: 'I'll do this because people seem to be serious.' My years at Thornridge probably changed the course of my life.

    • Nelsan Ellis: (on working with his "The Soloist" co-star) Robert Downey Jr., I fell in love with the man. He's – I mean, my goodness, he's an extraordinary actor, and he's an extraordinary person. 'Cuz I was fairly new then, in movies, and he took me under his wing. And every step of the way he was showing me a better way to do things. And I thought that was marvelous of him. 'Cuz you know, when you work with mega-celebrities, they don't typically have time to - to really (laughs) deal with anybody, you know what I'm saying?

    • Nelsan Ellis: (about playing Lafayette on "True Blood") It's been a learning experience. I'm pretty shy and a lot of times introverted. The first day of shooting, Alan [Ball] said, 'Nelsan...it's a theater! Whenever the camera comes over there I want Lafayette to put on a play.'

    • Nelsan Ellis: (about his influence in portraying Lafayette on "True Blood") My mother is a strong inspiration. The base core of Lafayette is my mother. My mother is a sexual creature and I wanted to make him like sex and bleed sex. Not mannerisms, just the way she operated as a sexual creature.

    • Nelsan Ellis: I love movies and I'm drawn to stuff that's weird. I get to be weird. I like to play characters that are offbeat, because I'm offbeat. I like to – the straight dude, you know the straight guy, I'm not really interested in that. I want the crackhead, junkie, you know what I mean? Insane person. Something that's a little off-kilter.

    • Nelsan Ellis: (on wanting to be an actor) I don't think I had any choice in the matter. I think God preordained that. It's the only thing I know how to do. Hopefully, from time to time I'll get it right.

    • Nelsan Ellis: (on playing the role of Lafayette on "True Blood") My concern was if I was going to offend anybody. I don't want to offend nobody. So I had great concerns with black people and gay people. Black people are going to say this, gay people are going to say this... My career is going to be over. People are going to hate my guts if I don't do this right.

    • Nelsan Ellis: (on attending Juilliard) The studies were so intense and the institution is so white, and I'm a black man from the South with a very specific vernacular and palate. I felt like an alien, and I struggled the first couple of years. But it transformed who I am as an actor and a person.

  • A TV "find"!

    While Lafayette may be a defining role in his career, it will in no way be a limiting one for this very talented young man.

    Often actors get stuck being so closely related with a character that they can't or don't get any substantively different roles once a show is over. In this case, I think that the role of Lafayette and Nelsan Ellis' characterization of him, is going to stand him in very good stead and in fact, open doors for him.

    He is seemingly fearless in this role, and while Lafayette has been highly entertaining so far, I'm hoping this third season of True Blood continues what appears to be a trend towards a deeper look into this...um...entrepreneurial man-about-town!

    I hope we get the chance to see him in more projects while he is between seasons of TB, and I wouldn't mind seeing the results of some of his writing. I'm betting its as imaginative as his portrayal of Lafayette.moreless