LGBTQ icon, actor Nelsan Ellis dead at 39
ENGAGE: Write a letter to the editor | Comment on this story
Flamboyant gay characters aren’t rare in popular TV these days, but Nelsan Ellis’ portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds on “True Blood” was groundbreaking in many ways. Lafayette wasn’t a gay stereotype, an easy victim or simple comic relief — though the character was, indeed, sassy as hell.
In fact, Ellis’ own contributions to the character led to a complete reversal of the planned script. Instead of being killed off as Lafayette was in the books, Ellis’ counterpart remained a central character until the final episode. Personally, I will never forget the famous “AIDS burger” scene in the first season, when Lafayette confronts three small-town bigots refusing to eat once they spot Lafayette as the cook.
A graduate of the seminal arts school, Julliard, Ellis spent decades performing memorable parts on TV, movies and on stage. Other appearances include “Elementary” and “Without a Trace” on CBS. He and high school friends also founded the Collective Theatre in Chicago, whose first show, HooDoo Love, Ellis directed in 2012.
One of Ellis’ “True Blood” co-stars and former Julliard classmate, Rutina Wesley, spoke to their alma mater about her career and acting with Ellis. He was hired for the show before Wesley, and she spoke of the relief of a familiar face.
“It’s comforting to know someone when you’re walking into a situation where you don’t know anyone,” Wesley told the Julliard Journal. “We have so much fun together. Especially with Nelsan because he was in a class ahead of me. All of our scenes together are on fire because we know each other. He always keeps me on my toes.”
Other co-stars and the show’s creator mourned the actor, who brought a special personality and skill set to the table. Anna Paquin, who plays the protagonist of “True Blood,” Sookie, tweeted her remembrance.
“It was an utter privilege to work with the phenomenally talented and deeply kind soul,” Paquin wrote. “I’m devastated by his untimely death.”
Numerous acquaintances and colleagues described Ellis’ nature as “kind” and “wonderful.” The show’s creator, Alan Ball, described his former star as “a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me.”
You can support independent, local LGBT media!
Give a one-time gift or sign up for ongoing voluntary online subscription to support qnotes' nearly three-decade long community service and keep our publication's dynamic, hard-hitting and insightful news and entertainment coverage alive. Click here to support us today.
You can support QNotesYou can support independent, local LGBT media! Give a one-time gift or sign up for an ongoing, voluntary online subscription to support qnotes' nearly three-decade long community service and keep our publication's dynamic, hard-hitting and insightful news and entertainment coverage alive. Click here to support us today.
Print Edition: On Stands Now
Click on the reader below to see the full digital print edition, including the latest news and updates from our advertisers.
Our Black History Month feature explores Black Excellence and a former Charlottean’s discovery of himself, pride and heritage through artistry. We also have extended coverage in our Gay & Gray section on the beginnings of creating a SAGE chapter in the Queen City, among other features. We also have current local, regional, national and global news and interesting features along with compelling commentary.
VIEW ALL FEBRUARY 23 PRINT CONTENT…
VIEW DIGITAL PRINT EDITION ONLINE…
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter:
- Elders in Charlotte set sights on starting SAGE chapter
- Queer sex slang: Know it or beware
- Choose science over fear
- HB2 ‘saddened and infuriated’ her, and it’s why she’s challenging the man behind it
- U.S./World: LGBTQ candidates increase across Texas
- Black Excellence Series celebrates artistic expression
- Loading ...
Black Excellence is about showing pride in black culture, and for people to love the heritage and where they come from. more
We found that Charlotte has an increased focus on Millenials and is building a city to attract them, but there is a lack of conversation and... more
LGBTQ seniors (and frankly, everyone else) can use the law to our benefit by doing a Last Will and Testament or Trust. more