|The Inside||2005 2004 - 2005||Actor||Carter Howard||20057|
|True Blood||2013 2013||Actor||Lafayette Reynolds||20137|
|Get On Up||2014||Actor||n/a||20147|
|The Soloist||2009||Actor||David Carter||20097|
|Veronica Mars||2007 2007||Actor||Apollo Bukenya||20077|
|The Reluctant Fundamentalist||2013||Actor||Wainwright||20137|
|Gods Behaving Badly||2012||Actor||Dionysus||20127|
|Without A Trace||2007 2007||Actor||Deng Nimieri||20077|
|The Express||2008||Actor||Will Davis, Jr||20087|
|Lee Daniels' The Butler||2013||Actor||Martin Luther King Jr.||20137|
|Warm Springs||Actor||Roy Collier||7|
|The Help||2011||Actor||Henry the Waiter||20117|
|Co-starred with Rachel Nichols and Adam Baldwin in Fox's short-lived crime drama "The Inside"|
|Wrote and staged "Ugly," a semi-autobiographical play about domestic abuse; received the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' Martin E. Segal Award|
|Cast opposite Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. in the biographical drama "The Soloist"|
|Breakout role as the drug-dealing, Internet-pornographer and prostitute Lafayette on HBO's "True Blood"|
Nelsan Ellis was born in 1978 in Harvey, IL and moved to Bessemer, AL when he was six to live with his mother after his parents' divorce. He had a turbulent childhood; at one point during his teen years, Ellis and his siblings became wards of the state before moving back to Illinois to live with relatives. At Thornridge High School, he excelled as an athlete who had no acting aspirations, but tried out for theater at the encouragement of his teachers. After graduating from high school in 1997, the future TV star joined the Marine Corps before attending the famed Juilliard School where he wrote and staged his award-winning play, "UGLy," about the tragic consequences of domestic abuse. Ellis was inspired to write the play after his sister, Alice, was shot and killed by her husband in 2002. He also performed a compelling monologue - as the effeminate Miss Roz - from "The Colored Museum" while training at Juilliard.
In 2005, he made his television debut in the HBO film "Warm Springs," a biopic of Franklin D. Roosevelt starring Kenneth Branagh and Cynthia Nixon. That same year, he was cast as a series regular in the Fox crime drama "The Inside" (2005), but the show was canceled after only 13 episodes. Ellis continued to make headway in television with guest appearances on "Veronica Mars" (The CW, 2004-07) and "Without a Trace" (CBS, 2002-09), which followed a special FBI task force known as the missing persons squad. He also had a small role in the sentimental drama, "The Soloist" starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx.
After proving his mettle on numerous crime series, Ellis was tapped to play Lafayette Reynolds, a cross-dressing fry cook who peddled vampire blood in the award-winning vampire saga "True Blood," based on the The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, that follows the residents in a small Louisiana town who coexist with modern-day vampires. On the show, Ellis' Lafayette wore club clothes and heavy eye makeup when he worked as a short-order cook, which often drew harassing comments from the male customers who, more often than not, quickly received introductions to Lafayette's fist. Ellis managed to extract his character's multilayered persona effortlessly, which started off hard and edgy but slowly evolved into someone who was extremely business-minded and a fierce ally to his friends. As a drug-dealing pornographer and prostitute, Lafayette was at the center of some of the show's most provocative storylines - including a Season two episode where Lafayette was locked in a dungeon, shot, and saved by drinking vampire blood. While his character usually lived on the edge, Ellis displayed a softer side in Season three when he meets his mother (Alfre Woodard) and has a love interest. In 2010, Ellis took a break from bloodsuckers when he co-starred as horse's groom Eddie Sweat alongside Diane Lane in the Disney production of "Secretariat," about the famous Triple Crown racehorse.
|The Juilliard School|
|Thornridge High School|
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