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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Dr. Dre Released From Hospital, Will Receive 24-Hour Home Care

Dr. Dre was released from L.A. Cedars Sinai Medical Center on Friday (Jan. 15), nearly two weeks after he suffered a reported brain aneurysm. Ice T confirmed the news tweeting, “Just FaceTimed with @drdre. He just made it home. Safe and looking good.”

The 55-year-old music mogul will remain under 24-hour care for the next few weeks as medical professionals continue to monitor his progress. Doctors are still unclear on what caused the aneurysm.

Dre’s hospital release comes days after new details were revealed in his divorce from estranged wife, Nicole Young. According to court documents publicized this week, Nicole accuses Dre, birth name Andre Young, of putting a gun to her head in 2000 and 2001. She also details other alleged abuse incidents in 1995 (before they were married) and in 2016, when he allegedly punched her in the face and kicked down her door.

The Grammy winner has denied Nicole’s abuse claims.

Nicole and Dre tied the knot in 1996. The pair share two adult children, Truice and Truly. Nicole filed for divorce last summer.

In addition to demanding that Dre cover her legal fees, Nicole wants the court to take the abuse allegations into account when “awarding support and fees.” Dre has already agreed to pay $500,000 of Nicole’s legal bills and $2 million in temporary spousal support.

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Cardi B Lands Leading Role In Comedy ‘Assisted Living’

Cardi B is making her way back to the big screen. The Bronx native officially landed her first leading role in the upcoming Paramount comedy, Assisted Living.

According to Variety, Cardi will play a small time crook struggling to find a hiding place after her latest heist fails. Her character, “Amber,” disguises herself as an elderly woman and hides out at her grandmother's nursing home. The film is described as a “raucous comedy” similar to Mrs. Doubtfire and Sister Act.

Paramount acquired the rights to Assisted Living in 2019. The film’s script was penned by This Is Us writer, Kay Oyegun.

Cardi, 28, made her film debut in the 2019 celeb-heavy stripper flick, Hustlers. The “WAP” rapper appears to have hinted at her Assisted Living role in a recent interview with Billboard where she dished on filming scenes for Fast & Furious 9.

“After ‘Hustlers’ I filmed a little bit for 'Fast & Furious' so I felt like ‘I’m ready for this,’ I knew what to expect,” she explained. “But the characters were a little different so I was like ‘Oh wow, I’m going to need more acting classes.’ I’m planning on doing a movie this year and I’m going to be the lead role so I’m like ‘I need to execute this flawlessly.’”

Besides film, Cardi was a judge on the Netflix completion show, Rhythm & Flow, and landed her own Facebook Watch series, Cardi Tries.

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Wendy Williams Reveals She Was Date Raped By ‘80s R&B Singer

Wendy Williams revealed that she was date raped by  ‘80s R&B singer, Sherrick, early in her radio career. The talk show host shared the story with reporters while promoting her Lifetime biopic Wendy Williams: The Movie on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

“He mesmerized me with his twinkling eyes,” she recalled. “He flipped the interview around to where he was interviewing me — I was just gaga over this man and he asked me to go to an album release party with him that night.

“Before the party, I was date raped by him,” said Williams.

Sherrick, born Lamotte Smith, was a member of the group Kagny, whose song is featured on The Last Dragon soundtrack. He signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1987 and scored a marginal hit with the single “Just Call” off his debut self-titled album. Sherrick struggled with sobriety but declared himself “drug-free” before dying of unknown causes in 1999.

Williams says that she was raped in Sherrick’s Washington D.C. hotel room and it, unfortunately, wasn’t her first time being sexually assaulted. The New Jersey native had been date raped in college. “Those types of things happen to girls all the time and they’ve been happening a lot, to a lot of our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and their great-great-grandmothers too.”

From the sounds of it, Sherrick's widow doesn't exactly believe Williams' story. She not only questioned Williams' account but wondered why she waited so long to go public, and why she didn't call police at the time of the incident.

“As I will never minimize or dismiss the horrid actions of sexual assault, I am saddened that Ms. Williams feels the need to publicly make these allegations when the man she is accusing is no longer on this earth to defend himself,” Lynne Conner Smith said in a statement to Page Six.  “Our family does not know Ms. Williams and are not aware of any relationship or encounter they may have had.”

The sexual assault will be chronicled in the film, as well as other details from Williams' life -- like her rise to talk show fame, her battle with drug addiction, and marriage to ex-husband Kevin Hunter.

Wendy Williams: The Movie premieres on Lifetime on Jan. 30.

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