'True Blood' star Nelsan Ellis talks Lafayette's new romance
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of True Blood, “Lost Cause,” stop reading now (or, at least read our full recap first). We spoke with Nelsan Ellis, who plays fan favorite Lafayette, about his second favorite scene of the series—when Lafayette asks Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) if she really knows James (Nathan Parsons), and why it’s so unimaginable that he would want a piece of happiness, too. (His favorite Lafayette moment, for the record, remains the AIDs burger scene from season 1.)
Was Lafayette’s speech to Jessica all scripted?
I didn’t add a thing. The writer [Craig Chester] captures Lafayette’s language so marvelously. It’s all his writing.
At a time when people are fighting for gay rights, Lafayette’s speech felt perfect. [“Everybody else in this f—ing town is falling in love, and getting engaged, and having babies. Has it ever f—-ing occurred to you that Lafayette, that queen that make all you white heterosexuals laugh and feel good about yourselves, has it ever f—ing ever occurred to you that maybe I want a piece of happiness, too?”] Was that something important for the character to say?
It is. I wouldn’t call it a gay rights thing. I would call it taking command of your own happiness. You want to be happy, you have to make yourself happy. And that’s what he did: He went in there, and he said, “I want this man, and I’m taking him. And you know what, you don’t deserve him. I do. I want to be happy. He makes me happy. So there you are.”
Did you use anything to get into that mindset?
Beyoncé’s “Partition.” Her new album just got me all into it.
When did you find out James was going to be a love interest for Lafayette?
Probably about a month before we started shooting. And I was like, “Oh, him?” But then the old James quit because I don’t know. And then they hired a new James, Nathan Parsons, and I was like, “Okay.” I was fine with it.
Did you get to talk to Nathan before he was hired?
No. We didn’t get to talk. But me and Nathan have had strange conversations, like, you know… [Laughs] You know. Who’s doing what?
Howard Deutch, who directed this episode also directed the episode with Jason’s dream about Eric. I spoke with him about that scene, and he said he likes to have the actors involved in the planning of any sex scene so everyone’s comfortable. So there was a lot of discussion about what would happen in the car?
Yeah. It’s a strange conversation to be like, “Who’s gonna be on top? Who’s gonna be on bottom?”
And why did it turn out the way it did?
Because I wanted to be in that position. [Laughs] Lafayette’s a domineering personality so…
The scene starts on Sookie’s front porch, when Lafayette makes that hand gesture that turns into hand-holding as he asks James if he and his best friend, Danny, had been intimate. Was that hand gesture scripted?
And Lafayette dropping his cup when he got his answer?
No. That was me.
Where do Lafayette and James go from here? Now more than ever, people are rooting for Lafayette to get a happy ending.
He will have a happy ending, I will say that. He deserves it, and the producers gave it to him.
I’m asking everyone I talk with this season if they’d be interested in being in the True Blood musical that’s in development.
There’s a True Blood musical in development?
The show’s composer, Nathan Barr, is pitching one. So it’s more like early discussion, let’s say.
I would love to be in it. Yes.
What kind of song do you imagine Lafayette would have?
[Without hesitation] “Girl, You Can Get It”—that would be the name of a song.
Carrie Preston told me the cast put in requests for things they’d like to keep from the set now that the show has wrapped, but the set is being archived so she hadn’t heard back yet. What did you request?
I’ve been stealin’ stuff for seven years. I got so much stuff from Lafayette: I got drawers, I got hats, I got earrings, I got rings. [Laughs] I would just go home and forget that I had stuff on, so I don’t need to request anything. I’m wearin’ Lafayette drawers right now.
What’s your favorite possession?
I like the rings. They haven’t asked for them back, so I’m gonna be keepin’ them.
You’re now promoting the film Get On Up [in theaters Aug. 1]. You play Bobby Byrd, who’s credited with discovering James Brown [played by 42‘s Chadwick Boseman]. What were you excited to portray about him?
James Brown was his best friend. He was the one who got James Brown out of prison and moved him into his house with his family. So just his love and his devotion to the man, to the artist, to the entertainer, to the godfather of soul.