The outpouring of love and professional respect for True Blood actor Nelsan Ellis, who died on Saturday, has been overwhelming.
But aside from the social media well wishes from his co-stars and fellow film and TV actors, one message stands out, and it’s from none other than Ellis’ True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer, aka the vampire Bill Compton.
Posted to Moyer’s Facebook page on Sunday morning, the long message isn’t simply a letter to a dear departed friend, it’s the best example yet of just how much Ellis’ colleagues respected his acting skill. Describing an iconic scene from the series set in the town’s diner, Moyer remembers the hold Ellis had on the other cast members and crew.
“In the scene that was being shot that day, Lafayette, a male cross-dressing short order cook in the show, was expounding on his theory of men’s fear of the female anatomy. Specifically, the vagina,” says Moyer.
“I’m not sure I have ever seen, before or since, people crowd around a monitor at video village with their hands clapped to their mouths from shock, sheer laughter and wonder …. It was completely original, funny, sardonic, risqué and brilliant. That was Nelsan Ellis. All of the above.”
And although Ellis’ character was possibly in line to be killed off, in keeping with the narrative in the books the show was based on, Moyer says, “I turned to Alan Ball when the scene was finished and whispered… ‘you can’t kill him!’”
Moyer also reveals that Ellis was the only cast member the show’s creator, Alan Ball, gave a pass to regarding improvising and departing from the scripted lines.
”In actuality, Nelsan was quiet, smart, thoughtful, warm and kind. A published playwright himself.”
“Nelsan inhabited the world of Lafayette, he quite literally COULDN’T STOP himself,” says Moyer. “It was like he was possessed. In actuality, Nelsan was quiet, smart, thoughtful, warm and kind. A published playwright himself.”
The message from Moyer is even more poignant when you consider that the two actors didn’t usually share a lot of screen time together. But as two linchpins of the show, they clearly established a deep bond that went beyond the script.
“I think it would be fair to say that he taught all of us that intent and courage and fearlessness and freedom are the aspects of playing make-believe that spark the corners of the room where the dark is most impenetrable,” says Moyer.
“To shine a light on those corners within ourselves is the very reason we go back time and again to movies, TV shows and theatre. To see that spark ignited. Nelsan had that electricity in an abundance I have rarely seen. I can’t believe he’s gone.”