Nelsan Ellis is an American actor best known for his starring role as cook, drug dealer and male prostitute Lafayette Reynolds in the horror drama television series True Blood, from 2008-2014.
Nelsan appeared in the feature film The Soloist opposite Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx and The Express for Universal Pictures.
Nelsan's other television credits include the Fox television series The Insider for producer Brian Grazer, the HBO Film Warm Springs opposite Kenneth Branagh, Cynthia Nixon and Kathy Bates, as well as Veronica Mars for the UPN Network.
Born in Chicago, Nelsan moved to Alabama at a young age and was raised in Bessemer, a largely poor and black suburb of Birmingham. At 14, he returned to Chicago and attended Thornridge High, which proved to be an oasis within a hard and bustling city, due to its emphasis on arts education. It was at Thornridge where Nelsan discovered his passion for acting and where he flourished.
In addition to acting, Nelsan found another interest in writing, and while attending Juilliard, wrote the semi-autobiographical play, Ugly, which was performed at the school. For his efforts, he received the Martin Segal Award from Lincoln Center.
Cast in True Blood, Nelsan impressed not only audiences but the show's executives as well. Director/Producer Alan Ball allows that Nelsan owns most of the scenes he is in as his own. "We just stand back and point the camera in his direction and let him loose," says Ball. "Nelsan channels his energy from his own planet." For his efforts on the debut season, Nelson was nominated for a Satellite Media Award.
Because of the violent death of his sister Alice, Nelsan has personally come to understand the nature of domestic violence and child abuse, and he has a unique desire to bring the problems of these epidemics to the forefront of the world's consciousness.