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Nelsan Ellis achieved breakout success when he took the part of Lafayette on the hit HBO vampire series True Blood.
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Alternately flamboyant and hyper-masculine, the TV series' Lafayette is a gay black man (one of the show's few non-vampires) from the South who breaks nearly every stereotype thrown upon him. ''I didn't like him in the books, but I loved the Lafayette I saw in the pilot," Ellis later stated. "He lives in a place where he deals with extreme scrutiny and adversity from everybody. He has to be tough and shrewd."
Straight in real life and a self-described "boring person,
" Ellis nevertheless portrays a dazzling and powerful Lafayette, and has subsequently gained immense popularity among straight and gay fans alike. However, many members of Ellis's family, especially his father, aren't fond of the character: "He believes the character is supporting an ideal that Christians don't normally support," the actor has stated. A Christian himself and a strong supporter of rights for the gay community, Ellis believes that his character, as well as the show in general, is about dealing with prejudice and discrimination and ultimately overcoming these obstacles: "It's about accepting what's different. You have to learn to not hate who you have to live with," he's said.
According to Ellis, fans often mistake him as a real-life Lafayette, which he finds largely flattering, but has also caused him to worry about how the movie industry will perceive him in the future. "I think African-American men particularly are fearful of playing a big personality role because Hollywood seems to always keep us there and can't see us beyond that. But I'm hoping that because I do movies in my off time that maybe Hollywood consistently sees me as a character actor," Ellis has said.
Two years after his True Blood debut, in 2010, Ellis starred opposite Diane Lane and John Malkovich in the film Secretariat, playing a decidedly different kind of character, a horse caretaker whose sexuality never comes into play.
In recent years, Ellis has been working on a screenplay based on Ugly called A Bird in the House, which he hopes to someday bring to a director and studio. He has also professed interest in doing a Tyler Perry film and in expanding his acting range even further over the next several years, as offbeat roles attract him more than conventional ones. For someone who has come such a long way from his difficult childhood, Nelsan Ellis certainly has a bright future ahead.
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The American television series True Blood, created and produced by Alan Ball, premiered in 2008 and quickly developed a cult following of fans with a thirst for the supernatural. Based on Charlain Harris’ book series The Southern Vampire Mysteries, the Emmy Award-winning TV show follows an otherworldly cast of characters including telepaths, shapeshifters, werewolves and vampires. Here are some of the actors who have sunk their teeth into True Blood roles.
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