The sixth season of HBO’s vampire odyssey True Blood is well underway, and Nelsan Ellis’ character Lafayette is coming to grips with all sorts of loss. But if you’re wondering where the 34-year-old actor found his sassy wit for the flamboyant, drug-dealing gay prostitute he plays on TV, well, look no further than his mother.
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What is it like to work with Anna Paquin?
She is a consummate professional. You can tell she has been working since she was a child. She knows camera angles, she keeps it moving, she is constantly prepared. I mean, she knows what she is doing all the time and she keeps you on your toes. She is a great actress but watching her is wonderful, I mean the girl can cry on the dime and cry for as long as she has to.
What makes True Blood different from anything you have ever worked on?
The freedom. Alan just lets you do whatever you want and that is marvelous. In all aspects, make up, costumes, hair, you are allowed to do whatever you want to do. You can command your creative thoughts to play that part.
Which sin do you think Lafayette is most guilty of?
Gluttony. He just wants and wants and wants. Being a hustler, you have these hustles because you want stuff. You want money, you want sex, materials and you don’t want to have a regular job to be what you do to get that. Lafayette just wants shit and he figures out ways to get it.
What about Eric, Alex Skarsgård’s character, what sin do you think his character is guilty of?
He covets. He always wants something that belongs to someone else. He is always taking someone else’s stuff.
I just caught up on the first two episodes of this season, what is it like to play a character in the grips of loss and depression? How did you prepare for the task?
When you are dealing with sadness, you are sad. Going into a sad dark place isn’t too fun for me. You have to sort of ponder up the sadness that is already lives inside yourself and no one wants to do that. Lafayette is a jovial, fun character in the beginning so having to judge up sadness is sort of on the cusp of my mother passing. You don’t really want to unearth sadness within yourself. Actually it was hard for me because I was dealing with my own stuff and not wanting to do it publicly but me trying to you know, use a little bit of it to give the character some ground. I was in the angst of emotional turmoil, so there were things that I had to deal with inside myself and yet try to use a little bit to get into character some realness. I prepared for it and tried to prepare not to do it…if that makes sense.
Has any aspect of Lafayette resonated with you personally? Has the character changed you in a way?
Well, yeah, with actors we are the character and the character is us. We get the fathom of our characters from our soul, our being. There is a behavior fathom that you may not have for the character but when you’re playing a character your drawn straight from the heart to your behavior fathom, there is blood in it. I draw from my own life. It’s swagger and sometimes the way you walk when you don’t expect it. A friend will be like “Dude, you’re walking like Lafayette,” or it’s certain hand gestures and you’re like “Oh, that’s like my character”.
Does what you put into the character of Lafayette come from someone you know? Do you imitate someone you know personally?
I do, I imitate my mother. My mother was a tomboy. She is strong yet feminine. Lafayette had to be feminine and masculine and all this stuff, so I sort of got most of his character from my mother.
If you could swap places with an actor on another current series, who would it be and why?
It would be Peter Dinklage on Games of Thrones. Or the chick with the blonde hair that handles the dragons.
What is in store for Lafayette for the rest of the sixth season?
You are going to see Lafayette come out of his black hole and start to be his old self again. He has some tricks up some sleeves to protect himself from another bout with the supernatural.