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‘True Blood’ star Nelsan Ellis explains why Lafayette will always be with him


“True Blood” is one of HBO’s more popular shows, a sexy horror/action series set in a sleepy Louisiana town that happens to be teeming with vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters and fairies. One of the most popular characters on the show is the flamboyant and feisty LaFayette Reynolds, who is brought to life by actor Nelsan Ellis. Ellis has seen his star rise as a result of his being on the show, and with the show ending this season, Nelsan revealed that he will always have a part of LaFayette with him.

“I’m kind of schizophrenic in that I take a little piece of every character I play, whether I like it or not, and keep him or her with me,” Ellis explained. “And sometimes they pop out — whether I like it or not!”

Ellis commits himself to every role and understands that an actor has to find a character’s humanity if they are ever to portray the character effectively.

“I went to Julliard and the first thing they teach us is you can’t judge the person that you play,” he shares. “So I learn from the humanity of the people I play. Especially when they have better character than [myself.] So I always take a bit of them with me.”

Ellis is appearing alongside Chadwick Boseman, Jill Scott and Dan Aykroyd in the highly-anticipated James Brown biopic Get On Up in early August and the actor gives a nuanced performance as Brown’s longtime friend, bandmate and onstage foil, Bobby Byrd. Ellis admitted that he was not at all familiar with Byrd’s story prior to the film, but he truly connected to the musician after he learned about him.

“I knew nothing about Bobby Byrd before I read the script,” says Elllis. I didn’t know who Bobby Byrd was or that he existed. I had to do research to find out who he was and fell in love with the dude. I’m honored to have played him.”

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