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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Barack Obama Says He Doesn't Like The Term “Defund The Police”

Barack Obama's advice about the using the term “defund the police” is receiving mixed reviews. The former commander in chief explained his issue with the “slogan” in an interview on the Snapchat show Good Luck America.

Obama cautioned against using the term as he feels it to be exclusionary. “If you want people to buy your sneakers you’re going to market it to your audience. It’s no difference in terms of ideas,” he explained. “If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it's not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘defund the police.’ But you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done.”

He also suggested that instead of “defund the police” people should say: “Let’s reform the police department so that everybody’s treated fairly.”

The 59-year-old politician seemingly theorized that the use of “defund the police” may have cost Democrats House seats in the recent election. “The key is deciding do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with? If you want to get something done in a democracy, in a country as big and diverse as ours, than you got to be able to meet people where they are and play a game of addition and not subtraction.”

Read some of the reactions to his comments below.

With all due respect, Mr. President—let’s talk about losing people. We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We’re losing our loved ones to police violence.

It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police. https://t.co/Wsxp1Y1bBi

— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) December 2, 2020

Imagine if Obama came out and gave a quick speech about how Defund the Police means reallocating resources to organizations that can help, instead of using cops to deal with things like mental health situations.

Says a lot about the man that he instead criticizes slogans.

— Dave Anthony PHD, MD, Esquire. (@daveanthony) December 2, 2020

obama doesn't like "defund the police" as a slogan because it is a specific actionable thing with a clear goal in mind. hope, change, yes we can & all that are better because they don't require you to actually do anything after saying them

— Shaun (@shaun_vids) December 2, 2020

What if activists aren’t PR firms for politicians & their demands are bc police budgets are exploding, community resources are shrinking to bankroll it, & ppl brought this up for ages but it wasn’t until they said “defund” that comfortable people started paying attn to brutality

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 2, 2020

The phrase 'defund the police' is awkward and misleading. It doesn't accurately convey the need to reallocate funding so that social services and policing are properly weighted.

The phrase mangles the meaning in a way that guarantees that many won't ever even hear it.

— Floss Obama🎅🏾 (@FlossObama) December 3, 2020

Obama is right. Defund the Police is a bad slogan. Reform the Police is better.

— PoliticsVideoChannel (@politvidchannel) December 2, 2020

obama is right. y’all need to stop saying defund the police when we mean abolish the police

— anti-lawn aktion (@antihoa) December 2, 2020

No one can push neoliberal thought like Obama. Suddenly, EVERYONE has decided that "defund the police" is just a slogan, and that it is responsible for Dems losing even tho none of them supported it.

The aim is to undermine activists just like he did w/ the potential NBA strike.

— Honeyves (@AdamantxYves) December 2, 2020

I need Barack Obama to leave the sloganeering to the movement.

Defund. The. Police.

We are keeping it. We are demanding it.

— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) December 2, 2020

We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety. https://t.co/Vu6inw4ms7

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 2, 2020

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Juice Wrld’s Mom Shares Touching Tribute In Honor Of His Birthday

Juice Wrld would have turned 22 on Wednesday (Dec. 2). In honor of his birthday, the late rapper’s mother, Camille Wallace, shared a touching message posted to his social media accounts.

“Jarad and I both loved celebrating our birthdays — mine is just two weeks before his. On our special days we used to wish one another Happy Birthday dozens and dozens of times throughout the day. Now I like to think of all the ‘Happy Birthday’ we saved for the future.”

The statement adds, “He will forever be the light of my life. Today, we celebrate him, his immense talent and creativity and his contribution to this world. Through his art, he spoke his truth.”

Happy Birthday, Jarad. We miss you. #lljw🕊 pic.twitter.com/TCoNQRLvuq

— . (@JuiceWorlddd) December 2, 2020

The “Lucid Dreams” rhymer, whose birth name Jarad Anthony Higgins, died from an accidental drug overdose last year. He passed away six days after his 21st birthday.

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G Herbo And Crew Charged In $1.5 Million Federal Fraud Case

G Herbo and several others including his manager, have been charged along with a few crew members in a $1.5 million federal fraud case. The 25-year-old rapper, born Herbert Wright III, is accused of committing identity theft by using stolen credit cards and IDs to pay for lavish gifts and vacations over a four-year period, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The 14-count indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts in September and publicized on Wednesday (Dec. 2), alleges that Herbo, his manager and promoter, Antonio “T-Glo” Strong.

The other defendants named in the case are Joseph “Joe Rodeo” Williams, Stephen Hayes Jr., Demario Sorrells, and Terrence Bender, obtained stolen credit card information, including cardholder’s name, addresses, account numbers, security codes and expiration dates. The information was reportedly obtained on the “dark web” and used to pay for luxury hotels, exotic car rentals, a personal chef, private security, commercial flights and private jets, two designer puppies, vacations and more.

The group faces conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft charges. Strong, who is alleged to be the ring leader and faces wire fraud charges, was arrested on Sept. 25. Williams reportedly turned himself in to authorities.

Herbo has yet to publicly comment on the matter. Earlier this week, the Chicago native was named among Forbes annual 30 Under 30 list.

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