lafayette

Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette) Talks 'True Blood,' Gay Marriage, Tyler Perry

Part of True Blood’s appeal is that the cast portrays their characters so well that it’s hard to believe they aren’t real. Enter Lafayette, played by Nelsan Ellis. Lafayette is a gay man who is flamboyant and egregious but at the same time isn’t stereotypical. He’s masculine but also feminine and will knock any man out if he’s pushed that far.

However, the man behind the character is the opposite. Ellis is a Julliard trained, perfectly straight Alabama native who initially struggled with bringing Lafayette to life but now that he has it down, he’s hoping that other industry insiders will remember that the character he plays is fictional. In addition to True Blood, he recently wrapped a feature film, has his own screenplay in the works and wouldn’t mind appearing in a Tyler Perry project. Here, he tells VIBE how he brought Lafayette to life, what the gay community thinks about the character and how he plans to transition beyond his True Blood role. ⎯Starrene Rhett

VIBE: Lafayette is dead in the book so how did you make the TV character your own?

Nelsan Ellis: I think by the second or third audition I got some bad notes from the casting director. They figured I was playing a stereotype or something like that so I got a friend of mine to come and work the audition with me and somehow I found the character inside of me versus putting on something that wasn’t real. Alan Ball wanted the character to be a myriad of things and at first I was skeptical but I somehow found it, maybe it was God helping me out.

So that stereotype you were playing must have been a Queenie type of gay guy, huh?

Yeah, at first because in the break down he was supposed to be almost drag queenish but I didn’t really play that right coming in, even when I got the job. I didn’t really find Lafayette until the third or fourth episode because I certainly didn’t have him in the pilot. There were takes where I was playing with who he was and takes that I was—they just happened to pick takes that were consistent with who Alan Ball thought the character should be.

What do you find most intriguing about the character?

That people like that character [Laughs]. There’s something about the dude that’s likeable. Even I was watching myself and criticizing myself—I go, “I like that dude.” The most intriguing thing about him is his strength and his stillness. If you watch Lafayette he doesn’t do very much. He’s not quick on his toes unless he gets heated. He’s just in that Southern way—sort of sauntering along, being who he is which is something I never intended. It just happened.

What’s been the feedback from the gay community?

Only in that they haven’t seen a dude like that before. And he’s not a stereotype. I think somewhere along the line they didn’t like that he was a prostitute. But I did [Laughs]. It’s who he is. I don’t think it’s a reflection of the gay community that's just Lafayette. But this is just from what I hear, I haven’t really spoken to the gay community outside him [Laughs].

So no men trying to get with you in real life, thinking that you’re Lafayette?

I get that but I don’t sit down with folks like, tell me what y’all think. But I get the hitting on me and stuff. But then again, I do play a gay character.

How annoyed do you get when people can’t differentiate between Nelsan and Lafayette?

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 peoplewe 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.”

Speaking of characters being played very well, Snoop Dogg has a crush on Sookie.

I didn’t see the video [for “Oh Sookie"]. They sent it to all of us but I’m in the process of moving and my Internet is down [Laughs].

True Blood has clearly become a cult phenomenon. What is it about the show that’s so captivating in a culture that’s flooded with vampires ad nauseam?

It’s because it’s edgy and sexy. Everything else is kinda chained and pussy. With True Blood, you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know how wild it’s gonna get. It’s like the Jerry Springer of TV shows but at the same time you got legitimate actors. Everybody on there is a legitimate actor who’s trying to get to the place that the writers are trying to send us to. I don’t think there’s a show as edgy, innovative and quite frankly, they’re shot well. Each episode looks like a movie, so I just think that True Blood has more edge and it has more spontaneous stuff that goes on.

Lafayette has been a lot softer lately as he’s being manipulated by vampires and reconnecting with his dysfunctional mother. What new developments can we look forward to with his character?

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Signage is seen at the 2020 Billboard Power List Event at NeueHouse Hollywood on January 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
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Billboard’s 2020 Power List Event Pins Leadership As The Music Industry’s Most Lucrative Tool

The start of a new decade inspired a change of plans for Billboard’s annual Power List. In previous years, the publication ranked 100 music industry professionals for their strides in the business by creating strategies that have propelled artists to the top of the charts and proved that the senior practices of the business can sometimes benefit from a fresh makeover. For 2020’s edition, the brand opted to not rank those chosen professionals but instead gathered and produced a list of honorees including Lyor Cohen (YouTube’s Global Head of Music), Roc Nation’s Jay-Z (Chairman), Desiree Perez (CEO), and Jay Brown (Vice Chairman) to Quality Control’s CEO Pierre “P” Thomas and COO Kevin “Coach K” Lee.

To a resounding applause inside the event’s NeueHouse location on a balmy Thursday evening (Jan. 23) in Los Angeles, Hannah Karp, Editorial Director of Billboard Media Group, explained the reason for the change and the company’s hope that next year will produce another list of futuristic innovators. “For one thing it’s always been hard to compare the power of executives in different sectors,” Karp said. “We also wanted to inspire a new generation of music business executives that honor leadership instead of just leverage.”

The first award of the night, which was named in honor of Jay Frank, a beloved music industry veteran who worked as senior vice president at Universal Music Group (UMG) before he passed away from cancer in 2019, was given to Mitchell Shymanskly, vice president of data and analytics at UMG, for his strides in digital music leadership.

“Jay was a visionary in our field, he saw things differently which is the true definition of an innovator,” he said. “He was looking constantly for an edge and it was a great privilege of mine to have the opportunity to work alongside him.” Shymanskly learned the mantra, “We don’t succeed alone.” That quote was echoed by Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry, who received the Breakthrough Award. He gave praise to his team for their work and success, especially after a year of witnessing Lil Nas X’s breakneck speed to pop stardom.

While future pioneers both in front and behind the mic filled the room, a living legend who helped shape some of music’s most fortified models also made a special guest appearance. The Clive Davis Visionary Award was presented to Atlantic Records’ Craig Kallman (CEO) and Julie Greenwald (COO) by the man himself, Clive Davis.

Greenwald shared the duo’s singular vision that allows Atlantic Records the ability to remain one of the music industry's pillars of success. “Build and maintain a music company that we love, we surrounded ourselves with an extraordinary team of people and then we signed artists that both Ahmet and Lyor would truly be proud of,” Greenwald said. For women in the music industry, being able to take that stage and receive these awards was a major feat for Jody Gerson, UMG’s CEO, who received the Executive of the Year award. The Executive of the Decade award was given to UMG's chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge. “To me, what is most meaningful is that this is a recognition without qualifications,” she said. “I am being honored not as a female executive, but as an executive. It is my hope that this award will help pave the road for more exceptional and diverse leaders to come. We all deserve to be judged for our merits regardless of who you are or how you identify.”

Gerson also sits on the board of directors for She Is The Music (SITM), a program that promotes inclusivity in the music industry. Gerson revealed that UMG will donate $50,000 to the organization, which aims to provide resources for gender diversity in songwriting, producing, executive positions and more. In 2018, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative conducted a study on the lack of women representation in the music sector. The research, which was published in 2018, concluded that for the year of 2017 out of 651 producers only two percent were women while men dominated at 98 percent. In the songwriting world, out of 2,767 credited songwriters, 12.3 percent were women while 87.7 percent were men.

Now, with new sights and plans set to change the makeup of the industry, Gerson reiterated that there's no better time than the present to implement new practices. “The moment of change is here.”

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Allen Berezovsky

Lauren London Debuts The Marathon Clothing x Puma Collection

The Marathon Clothing and PUMA are teaming up once again. The brands will be collaborating in honor of the late Nipsey Hussle. His wife, Lauren London, debuted the Marathon Clothing x Puma’s “Hussle and Motivate” collection on social media on Thursday (Jan. 23).

London is featured in the line's campaign shoot with Hussle's close friends, YG, J. Stone, and Pacman Da Gunman. Per a press release: "After first releasing in September 2019, PUMA will re-issue key pieces from the collection for fans and supporters including co-branded tracksuits and t-shirts featuring checkered patterns and TMC motifs, as well as PUMA’s signature California sneakers in black and white iterations."

 

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#HussleAndMotivate

A post shared by Lauren London (@laurenlondon) on Jan 23, 2020 at 5:56pm PST

Another image from the clothing collaboration shows London wearing a white sweatshirt with a message that reads, “We (The Marathon Clothing) honor the unwavering faith of those that never quit. Our products represent their testimony. Life is a marathon.”

A portion of the net proceeds from PUMA’s sales of the PUMA x TMC Collection will go directly to the Neighborhood “Nip” Foundation. Beginning February 1st, the collection will be available again in select retailers and on PUMA's official website.

 

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#HussleAndMotivate

A post shared by Lauren London (@laurenlondon) on Jan 23, 2020 at 5:58pm PST

London previously linked with Puma for a viral video campaign paying tribute to her longtime love. Hustle, whose Victory Lap recently went platinum, will be celebrated at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards with a tribute featuring YG, Roddy Ricch, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, and John Legend.

The 2020 Grammy Awards will air on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Lil Wayne performs at the 2019 Outside Lands music festival at Golden Gate Park on August 09, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
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Lil Wayne Reveals Release Date For ‘Funeral’ Album

Four years after initially announcing the project, Lil Wayne took to Twitter on Thursday (Jan. 23) to reveal that his  Funeral album will drop next week.

“Welcome to the funeral, closed casket as usual,” Tunechi says in the album teaser. The Grammy winner also tweeted a link for fans to pre-order physical and digital copies of the album as a CD, vinyl or “digital cassette.” The online shop features album merchandise, including long-sleeved shirts, hoodies and beanies.

In a recent interview with VIBE, Lil Wayne said that even though his recording process has drastically changed since his prolific mixtape days, he still finds enjoyment in going to the studio to create.

“I love the difficulty of trying to fit in with what’s going on today, making sure I sound likable to the ears today and having to remind myself that it’s not about what it was back then. Going to the studio now, for me, is awesome. I used to go to that muf***a and do 12 songs a night. Cut a beat on, I’m going to go and you let me know when to stop,” Wayne said.

“...I can’t wait to get in the studio now every night, just to see what I can come up with. [Before] it was just me going to the studio and saying, let me kill ten more songs and then I’m going to go home or do whatever I was doing. Now, it’s let me see what I come up with. Self-discovery, rebirth – call it whatever you want to call it but it feels awesome, I swear to God.”

The New Orleans native’s last studio LP, Tha Carter V, dropped in 2018 after years of delays. In 2019, the 37-year-old rapper embarked on a joint summer tour with Blink-182, but the jaunt was marred by difficulty as Wayne walked off stage during one show and threatened to quit. He changed his mind hours later.

Even with all the tour trouble, Blink-182 had nothing but good things to say about Weezy. “The one day where he walked off stage, he had said, ‘I just felt like they didn’t like me,’ so he walked off stage,” drummer Travis Barker explained in an interview last year.

Funeral drops on Jan. 31. Check out the album teaser below.

1/31 https://t.co/7VtPC39vT6 pic.twitter.com/FQrLNA8ptn

— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) January 23, 2020

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