"When actor Nelsan Ellis is on the set of HBO's vampire saga "True Blood," show producer Alan Ball says, "We all just stand back and point the camera in his direction. Ellis channels from his own planet."
A few years ago, my former acting coach and dear friend, Marjorie Ballentine, called me to tell me that one of the actors whom she coached was shooting an HBO pilot presentation and he was looking for the role of the therapist.
He'd asked her to play the role, but she was no longer interested in acting. So... she called me.
I thought why not? She said that her student, Nelsan Ellis, was super talented. He'd written the piece himself and he'd be a great actor for me to meet.
So, I drove to the valley. I'd put together an outfit, I had an idea occur to me about my "character" and all I knew was that our pilot presentation was completely improv -- it would be lightly directed. They wanted it to be similar to The Office in tone and "real-ness," but it would truly be born of all of our own characters, which we would bring to the table.
I didn't know anyone there.
They were all friends from Julliard or fro NYU Tisch. They basically knew one another from New York. They were serious actors. They were excited to be creaitng their own project.
And here I was. A part of it. I'd taken an acting clas -- welp, I am happy to say that I did not "take" this class, rather I sat in on it. And the teacher kept talking about all of this "light" coming from the students. And as she went around the "circle" (of course!) Each student would give their little bit...
Please give light to my inner actor for my Wheaties call-back tomorrow at 1:40.
And the room was adorned with all of these child-like drawings that her "kids" i.e., her students had drawn out of their :inner child" and with their own personal "light."
I was literally sitting there, thinking, Am I the only person who sees this? How is no one here laughing? What? Your inner light for your Days of Our Lives audition???
Clearly, I was from New York. And this was feeling all too LA.
Needless to say, I used it. As all good actors will do, I used this creepy experience in this pilot presentation with this Nelsan and his friend Edi Gathegi who also played a role in the show.
And I wore glasses and a vest and pleated pants, heels. I became the part. To be honest, I'm not even sure what I did. Or how I did it. But, the shit was funny. From all of us.
The actors went for it. Took risks. Hounded one another. Came fully prepared. Were hungry. Egos left at the door.
And we all went for it.
And they dug what I did.
I had a blast.
I had new friends. They were all super talented and smart and close and funny. And I was happy to be indoctrinated into this elite group. This was the kind of group that in New York, I would have worshipped as a kid studying in the city.
Nelsan called Marjorie. Told her I was a brilliant comedian. I was glowing. And that was that.
I heard from Nelsan again a few times -- asking me to be part of readings we was putting on. Or to shoot another pilot presentation as well. The director called me in for a project as well.
And we stayed in touch.
Marjorie had told me that Nelsan was super talented. And I loved his passion. He would pick me up and drive me to the valley to be a part of these readings if I had not other way to get there.
He wrote his own scripts. He directed his own shorts. Apparently Marjorie said that ICM was frustrated with him for spending so much time writing and not focusing on his acting.
but -- he wanted something great. To be something great. And he was not going to wait around for anyone to create it. I liked that.
Then, a few year later, I saw him outside of The Griddle on Sunset Boulevard and he was meeting a friend for lunch. He had a glow. He looked great, slim and toned and smiling.
I asked him what was going on and he said that he'd gotten a show. And he had some semi-naked scenes. I smiled and made a sexy face and he sort of said something like, Oh not what you're thinking.
And the thing is, how could I ever be thinking Lafayette? How could anyone before he created him?
He came to see my show a year ago January and he wanted to direct a film version of it. He pulled me aside in the dark bar after our show, and said -- You shouldn't be selling tickets for your own show. You should be walking the red carpet.
From your mouth to God's ears, Nelsan. This woman is ready.
Our mutual and super talented friend, Edi Gathegi -- who stars in the Twilight series and whom I recently directed in Billie Jean at the Graveyard in our theater company's show last fall -- told me something that Nelsan said that stuck with me.
When they were chatting about nepotism in the industry, Nelsan said to him, (and I paraphrase)
"Well, my father is the creator of earth. So I don't worry about those people."
This is one actor -- no, human being -- who has been through a lot. He has grown. And he has worked so hard to create his own success. And when it came, he was ready.
Lafayette is an utterly original character. He makes an indelible impression. Every time I tell someone about my friend Nelsan on TrueBlood, because it is indeed my favorite show, they always say back -- I love him.
Just today, my neighbor said, Don't tell my girlfriend you know him. She loves him.
And so... I dedicate this blog to Nelsan Ellis. Because he has earned his success. As has my neighbor whom I met today and who is also a star on a super popular show.
I have earned it too, my little blades. I am ready for my own Lafayette.
I am stoked about the now. This moment. Creating my own success.
I am ready to sign with a fantastic talent manager. My own coach. My own greatest fan, who will push me and promote me and never give up on me and fight for me. Again and again. And know that I am an Academy Award-winning actress. And Tony Award winning. And Emmy Award winning. And... we shall see! Pulitzer too!!!
So... on this note, I leave you all with this -- Nelsan uses his "stuff" to create the extraordinary character of Lafayette. Strong and funny and full of heart and a sharp sense of self.
Let us all use what we have to make us shine.
Today, I started to work again on what I have to give. I sat down on my laptop and I worked. I met with my new producing partner, Kevin. I emailed friends for meetings -- one os a producer, one is the head of music at paramount, one is a hige director, one a TV star beloved around the world.
I am working towards getting my manager. By telling everyone I can that this is what I am seeking. I am also going to research who will work with me -- who will be a great fit. Whom they rep. What they have done for them. nd together we will sign with an agent. And sell books. I am working towards booking more jobs. I booked another last week!!!
Ultimately... I am working towards creating my Lafayette with all of the phenomenal resources I have at my fingertips. Phenomenal friends who sooo believe in me.
Oh -- and -- send light to my McDonald's call back tomorrow at 1:45! hehe.