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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 14, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 28
Nelsan Ellis gave 'True Blood' soul when it really needed it; played Gay cook on TV series
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Nelsan Ellis gave 'True Blood' soul when it really needed it; played Gay cook on TV series

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Truth be told, I started to give up on 'True Blood' around the time they introduced faeries. I was fine with vampires, witches, shapeshifters and were-panthers, but the storyline of Sookie Stackhouse being part faerie and assuming all its super powers was just silly.

But I kept watching the show, right down to the series finale a few years ago, for two reasons: Eric Northman (because Alexander Skarsgard is all kinds of yummy) and Lafayette Reynolds, who provided the HBO drama with some of its best scenes and one-liners. Which is why the untimely death of Nelsan Ellis, the actor behind the flamboyant, openly Gay character on 'True Blood' for seven seasons, saddened me. He was the saving grace for many poorly written episodes, injecting needed wit and shady dialogue, and just pure life, into scenes that would have otherwise flatlined.

Lafayette was a sassy short-order cook who took shit from no one, minding his own business in the kitchen of Merlotte's Bar and Grill, but quick to assist his co-workers if he suspected trouble, even if it meant teaching a table of jerks a lesson for sending a burger back with the waitress because 'it might have AIDS.' He always wore a combination of men's clothes with feminine accessories, his face often layered with colorful makeup and when he wasn't offering his friends good advice, or a listening ear, he was giving the township of Bon Temps plenty of attitude.

In season three, Lafayette was given a boyfriend, the sexy male witch Jesus Velasquez (Kevin Alejandro) and it was nice to finally see a character with a heart of gold, yet tough exterior, find love deep in the bayous of Louisiana, where it's typically slim pickin's for single Gay men. Kudos to 'True Blood' creator Alan Ball for featuring a rare interracial same-sex storyline between African-American and Hispanic characters, and one that really seemed genuine.

In the book series authored by Charlaine Harris, on which the Emmy-nominated drama is based on, Lafayette's character is killed off, but he was beloved on the television show and thus was kept on through its entire run.

Even though Lafayette was very open about his sexuality, Ellis kept that part of his personal life to himself.

'I don't answer that question, 'Are you gay or not?',' he stated in an interview with Vibe. '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.'

Behind the scenes, Ellis made headlines when he criticized fellow actor Luke Grimes for quitting the series in its final season when it's discovered that his character, a vampire named Kent, is bisexual and would begin a relationship with Lafayette.

'You quit your job because you don't want to play a gay part?' Ellis told New York Magazine. 'You make a big statement when you go, 'I don't want to play this part because it's gay. You just made a statement, and it has ripple effects.'

Ellis died on July 8, at the age of 39, due to complications from heart failure. Ellis was married and the father of a young son. He graduated from Juilliard with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2004. Many of his former 'True Blood' cast members, including Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Carrie Preston, Sam Trammell, Joe Manganiello and Anna Camp, paid their respects to him on social media.

'I am speechless... I am heartbroken... Rest In Peace my friend @OfficialNelsan,' posted Alejandro with an image of Jesus holding Lafayette in his arms.

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Concert For America an important night of talent and causes
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If you love Jane Austen and musicals or maybe even just musicals, see what's opening at Taproot!
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Seattle Shakespeare Company's FREE Wooden O Shakespeare in the Parks through August 6
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Nelsan Ellis gave 'True Blood' soul when it really needed it; played Gay cook on TV series
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Emmys 2017: RuPaul's Drag Race, Ryan Murphy, Evan Rachel Wood, Kate McKinnon lead LGBT nominees for primetime TV awards
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SGN EXCLUSIVE: Jake Biondi releases seventh book in his popular BOYSTOWN series
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Letters
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Tori Amos coming to Seattle in November, Melissa Etheridge to play Washington State Fair
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Creatively intelligent Journey a fascinating piece of historical fantasy
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Celebrating compromise:

Nick Hamm on making The Journey a trip worth taking

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Joyous Lost in Paris a farcical delight
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