True Blood Actor Nelsan Ellis Talks Lafayette, Gay Marriage, Tyler Perry

VIBE recently interviewed Nelsan Ellis, who plays the enchanting and entertaining vampire-blood pusher Lafayette in HBO’s current TV sensation, True Blood, currently airing it’s third season.

In the interview, the actor speaks of his annoyance at being presumed to be a reflection of Lafayette by industry folk and limited preconceptions of black actors.

As well as revealing his currently work on a play that highlights domestic violence, inspired by his sister’s murder in 2004, Ellis also displays strong support for Tyler Perry and welcomes the idea of working with him.

Here are some excerpts from the interview: How annoyed do you get when people can’t differentiate between Nelsan and Lafayette?

Nelsan Ellis: It annoys me when the industry people are like that but I can’t just get upset with regular folk because all they see is the character.

“But when the industry can’t tell the difference, I’m like, “Damn that’s a little closed minded,” because when white people play a character people expect it to be a character. But black people—we can’t just be character actors, we have to [really] be the things we’re hired for, which is what offends me.

“I don’t answer that question, “Are you gay or not,” when it comes down to industry people. But if it’s a regular person asking me, that just says that maybe I’m doing a good job. But when a casting director or an agent asks me that question it takes on a deeper thing that says, “I can’t believe you’re doing this unless you are that.”

VIBE:com: You’re also a writer, what are you working on?

Nelsan Ellis: My sister was murdered in 2004, by my brother-in-law. She was murdered in front of their then three-year-old son and she was three months pregnant at the time. So I’ve been working on a project called Ugly that Julliard produced Off Broadway and at Santa Monica Play House here in California. The next step is I wrote a screenplay that I’m trying to get done. Now we’re trying to bring the play back or take it to New York again.

“Domestic violence is an epidemic worldwide and in this country, and I think this will be one way—based on the success of Precious and the industry now trying to take serious black dramas seriously—now I have a fighting chance to get it done and at the same time bring some light to this issue of domestic violence, which again is a huge epidemic. It’s a family secret. The screenplay is called A Bird in the House and the play version is called Ugly. So that’s what I’m trying to get done. I have a few other things but right now I’m focusing on that. Speaking of Precious, Tyler Perry is one of the names attached to that project and he comes under a lot of scrutiny but would you consider being in a Tyler Perry movie?

Nelsan Ellis: Hell yeah! I don’t care what they say about Tyler Perry. That man is doing things that not many people are doing who had the power and the money and the credibility long before he did so I don’t think anybody should say a fucking word about Tyler Perry! That man is producing Black material and he’s hiring Black talent. And he has his own company to do it with. Whether he knew how to do it in the beginning, that’s neither here nor there, but I know that it’s improving.

“I will be in one at the drop of a dime. My godmother, Viola Davis, was in one. If he will hire me I will absolutely be in one of his movies. I don’t even understand the scrutiny. He’s setting an example by which we should follow. I think if it’s Black people criticizing him then they should stop and follow suit. If they think they can do better then they should do better. He’s giving us the blueprint.

Click here to read the full interview at, in which Ellis also shares his thoughts on gay marriage and other issues.

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