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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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Is Expected To Make $64 Million Opening Weekend

Thanks to Us, Jordan Peele has another blockbuster on his hands. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the highly-anticipated horror flick starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, is expected to have a $64 million opening weekend at the domestic box office.

Peele’s sophomore horror film earned an impressive $7.4 million on Thursday (March 21) night previews, and is forecasted to take in about $27 million from Friday sales. The film is also on pace to knock Captain Marvel out of the No. 1 spot at the box office.

Once final numbers are tallied, Us will likely snatch the third-best opening weekend record for an R-rated horror film behind It, which brought in a whopping $123.4 million, followed by Halloween’s $76.2 million opening weekend last year.

Aside from rave reviews and a genius promo run that included simultaneous screenings in major media markets, Us earned a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film, set in the mid-1980s centers around a family of four who set off on a vacation that finds them confronting some familiar faces.

Peele recently spoke to VIBE about casting Duke (our April 2019 cover star) in the role of patriarch, Gabe Wilson. “I have to have somebody voice what the audience was saying,” he said. “In the case of Get Out, it’s Rod, like, ‘How have you not left yet?’ [In Us], Winston is largely that voice. There’s one moment where Lupita [Nyong’o] takes a step into the unknown, where black people [will think], ‘I don’t know.’ But to have Winston say, ‘Aaaand she left. Your mother just walked out of the car.’ That’s all we need.”

Duke also opened up about the intricacies of his character. “His function isn’t to see through the veil. His function is to tell the absolute truth how he sees it,” explained the 32-year-old actor. “He’s sometimes there to say the things that other people don’t want to say, but he’s also there to make fun of things to keep it from not getting too heavy, even though it’s real. That was my job. [Peele] respected that. I like to lean into functions. If I’m going to be your antagonist, I’m gonna really push you. If I’m gonna be your clown, funny guy, I’m gonna do that.”

Click here to read VIBE’s April 2019 cover story.

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Cardi B Explains Why She Wants To Trademark “Okurrr”

Cardi B hopes to secure as many “bags” as possible. In response to backlash and burning questions surrounding her decision to file to trademark “okurrr,” the 26-year-old rapper took to social media Friday (March 22) to defend her latest money move.

Since people tend to ask Bardi to use what has become her signature catch phrase, she figured that it was time to cash in. “You think I ain’t gonna’ profit off this sh*t? B*tch white folks do it all the motherf**king time,” she said. “So you gon’ be mad at me ‘cuz I want to get some motherf**king money?

“While I’m still hear I’ma secure all the fucking bags,” Cardi continued before adding that there are a “lot of ways to get rich” in 2019.

The Bronx native caught heat for wanting to trademark the word because she wasn’t the first to say “okurrr.” Cardi already revealed that she started using it after she heard Khloe Kardashian saying it, but the word was originally popularized in drag culture -- most notably by Rupaul’s Drage Race contestant Laganja Estranja, in 2014.

However, Rupaul attributed the word to Broadway actress, Laura Bell Bundy, who used it in YouTube skits dating back to 2010. In the skits, Bundy pretends to be a hairdresser named “Shocantelle Brown.”

Although Bundy caught criticism for her little character, which was deemed racist, she typically gets credit for bringing “okrrr” (different spelling) to the internet a full decade before Cardi made it mainstream.

No matter the origin, it looks like Cardi will be the only one profiting off of “okurrr.”

 

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Kanye West, EMI Working Towards Private Settlement

Kanye West and EMI could be close to settling their legal drama. Each party filed documents requesting a stay of the case to “explore the potential for a resolution,” The Blast reports.

West sued EMI in an effort to “gain freedom” from his contract, and to own his publishing. In the lawsuit, ‘Ye argued that his contract ended in 2010 under California law, which bars entertainers from being tethered to an agreement for more than seven years. The multi-Grammy winner, who signed the deal back in 2003, also accused the company of slavery because the contract doesn’t allow him to retire.

“Even if the contract were not lopsided in EMI’s favor (it is), even if its terms valued Mr. West’s artistic contributions in line with the spectacular success he has achieved for EMI (they do not), and even if EMI had not underpaid Mr. West what it owes him (EMI has), he would be entitled to be set free from its bonds,” the lawsuit reads.

EMI hit back with a countersuit filed in New York, instead of California. The suit pointed out that the 41-year-old rapper signed multiple contract extensions, in addition to accepting millions in advances.

According to The Blast, West and EMI now feel that putting a hold on the legal proceedings will be beneficial to both sides “and the Court by enabling the parties to engage in meaningful discussions in an attempt to resolve this action without having to incur the burden and expense of litigation and motion practice.”

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