Vulture’s Jennifer Vineyard nabbed an excellent interview with Nelsan Ellis, the actor behind True Blood’s much beloved Lafayette Reynolds. Ellis opens up about his new film role playing R&B legend Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic Get On Up. He also owns up to a surprising lack of dance skills and shares his great sadness at saying goodbye to all his True Blood castmates: “I’m going to miss seven years of a family.”
One former castmate Ellis is probably not going to miss is Luke Grimes. As you’ll recall, Grimes was cast as vampire James at the end of Season 6 and was ostensibly a love interest for Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). This season started with a recast James (now played by Nathan Parsons) and intimations of a love triangle between James, Jessica and Lafayette.
Actors Luke Grimes (l) and Nathan Parsons
Many fans were hoping that Lafayette would get a meaningful romance before the show ends, and after last night’s episode it looks like that’s happening.
But fans also had a lot of questions about Luke Grimes’ abrupt departure. Did he leave because his character was going to be in a same-sex relationship? Ellis was surprisingly candid about what happened:
Vulture: Did you ever get a chance to talk to or bond with Luke Grimes when he was playing James, before they switched off?
Ellis: I didn’t, but I’m completely… I mean, I can say I’m not going to make a comment, but I just think that, you’re an actor, you’re an actor on a show that’s True Blood, we’re all sitting there going, “You quit your job because … really?” I’m just… I’m over him. You quit your job because you don’t want to play a gay part? As if it’s… You know what? I’m going to stop talking.
Vulture: That’s okay. I get what you’re saying. If you’re going to be on True Blood, you have to be open to a lot of experiences.
Ellis: You have to be open. But more importantly, you make a statement when you do something like that. I did a documentary called Damn Wonderful, about gay suicide, and you make a statement, a big statement, when you go, “I don’t want to play this part because it’s gay.” If you have a child, if you have a son, and he comes out as gay, what are you going to do? If you have a daughter who comes out gay…? You just made a statement, and it has ripple effects. First of all, this show, it’s True Blood, and shit, we get scared when we read scripts! Excuse my language. When scripts come, we’re like, “What are they going to have us do this week?” But when you make a statement that is a judgment… I was kind of like, “Have you met Alan Ball?” I’m supposed to do what my boss tells me to do, as an actor. I can’t approach a character with judgment. I certainly can’t tell my boss, “I can act what I want to act, but not what you tell me to act,” especially on a show where you come in, knowing what it is. I was like, “Okay… I guess?” I just thought that, having just done the documentary, I didn’t like what he did because he made a statement, and sometimes you have to take responsibility.
Vulture: Is it safe to say he won’t be invited back for the True Blood musical?
Ellis: [Laughs.] I don’t think he’ll be invited back to HBO.
Ouch! The entire interview is worth a read and will make you a bigger fan of Nelsan Ellis than you probably already were. You can find it here.