Nelsan Ellis: Eulogy for a True Blood

Nelsan Ellis (1977-2017) is best knows for his iconic work on the hit HBO show True Blood. He plays the short order cook with a penchant for telling you about yourself. Truly a great encapsulation of a queer person of color in a small Southern town. Lafayette was a character created to die in the first book of the True Blood series. Mr. Ellis was so phenomenal he was able to make audiences love him so much and call for his character to remain alive. It was clear to me, however, that this was a no-brainer. Lafayette must live. 

And Nelsan made this happen. He took a character who was mortal and made him immortal. He manifested the life of his character and therefore the life of his career. Watching Ellis in other roles, you can see that his talent is subtle, yet haunting. Something lingers about his portrayals of the secondary character, even tertiary. No matter what role he played, he was all in. He gave Lafayette his life.

Nelsan’s family issued a statement saying that he was ashamed of his addictions to drugs and alcohol. He was attempting to clean himself up and a part of that meant doing it on his own,  “cold turkey”. This lead to his heart failure and a 4 day stay in hospital before succumbing to multiple organ failures. It was a brave show, my friend. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 39.

I wasn’t sure if I should write about this and express my grieving thoughts. I discover that writing is cathartic in and of itself and even if I never post this, it will be a love letter to the man, his family and friends to express how phenomenal he could have been. His trajectory was boundless. Inspiration!

I want to thank Chicago and his mother for giving us Nelsan Ellis. I want to thank Nelsan for being creative and brave enough to pursue acting. I want to thank the creators and producers of True Blood for right casting and right decision making by keeping Ellis on beyond his expiration date. I want to thank Nelsan for giving us a character we didn’t know we needed…but couldn’t live without.

Happy homegoing brother Ellis! We are all too often, in recent years, reminded of our mortality. No matter the age, we are all here momentarily. And you sir, you have reminded me that anything is possible, use your talents fully and we all have demons that haunt us. You are free. 

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo 

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo 

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo 

~sister dora 

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