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Nelsan Ellis

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Born

Harvey, Illinois, USA

Birth Name

Nelsan Narie Ellis

Gender

Male

Biography:

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 when he was six to live with his mom after his parents' divorce. At 14, he lived with his aunt, Pat Thompson, and near where his father, Tommy Thompson, stayed in Dolton, Illinois. He attended Thornridge High School, where his teachers Bill Kirksey and Tim Sweeney, then chair of the school's fine arts department, encouraged him to try out theater acting.

Ellis was a high school athlete and had no intention of being an actor, but was persuaded by his teachers during freshman year to portray Junie, a major role, in the play The Colored Museum. Nelsan got hooked and continued towards pursuing an acting profession. After he graduated in 1997, Kirksey still supported him and would send him money at college. Ellis eventually made it to Juilliard where he wrote his award-winning play UGLy, "a story of unconditional love and how it masks a multitude of sins". Apart from theater work for more than seven years, he also appeared in a short drama film called Lost in 2002.

In 2005, Nelsan made his television debut alongside Kenneth Branagh and Cynthia Nixon in the made-for-TV biopic of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Warm Springs. That same year, he was cast as a series regular to play Carter Howard in the Fox crime drama The Inside, which unfortunately only aired 13 episodes. He has also made guest appearances on Veronica Mars and Without a Trace. In 2008, Ellis was called on for another series regular role as Lafayette, a flamboyant gay man who peddles V-blood on Alan Ball's gripping vampire drama True Blood.