Now that you’ve seen the season 2 premiere of True Blood, join me in a chorus of “Hallelujah, Lafayette lives!” Although last November’s cliff-hanger seemed to suggest that series creator Alan Ball was remaining faithful to Charlaine Harris’ books and sending Nelsan Ellis’ fierce, flamboyant alter ego to an early grave, Sunday’s debut confirmed what many fans had hoped: Ball decided to spare the wildly popular character. But why? In this exclusive interview, Ellis has the surprising answer to that question, as well as scoop on another possible detour Ball has up his sleeve — this one involving a deep connection between Lafayette and Alexander Skarsgard’s Eric.
When you first signed on to the show, did Alan Ball assure you he would not be following the books when it came to this character?
NELSAN ELLIS: No, no no. When I first started it was only a one-year contract, so I thought I was a goner after the 12th episode. In fact, [Alan] didn’t tell me that he was bringing me back until after the table read for [the season 1 finale]. He was like, “You know we’re not killing you, right?” And I was like, “I didn’t know but thanks for telling me.”
What was your reaction?
ELLIS: Thank you! I have a job for next season! That was my reaction.
Did he explain to you why he let Lafayette survive?
ELLIS: Not really. He just said he decided after the bar scene in [the pilot], but he didn’t tell me until the 12th episode. He didn’t really go into any detail as to why he decided to keep me — not to me anyway.
When did you realize the character was gaining a large following?
ELLIS: I’m beginning to realize it now. At first I didn’t. I am realizing more and more that people have seemed to respond well to Lafayette, much to my surprise.
Why are you surprised?
ELLIS: Well, because I would not know what to do with Lafayette or what to think about him.
Was it hard keeping his fate a secret during the hiatus?
ELLIS: It was hard. The question was asked every single day.
How will the experience of being locked in a dungeon and almost dying change Lafayette this season?
ELLIS: It certainly humbles him. It shows him there are some situations he just can’t get himself out of no matter how slick he is. He’s going to have to suffer the consequences of what he’s done. And I think he reflects back on his behavior and maybe for a second thinks about changing.
In an upcoming episode [SPOILER ALERT], Lafayette ingests a lot of Eric’s blood. The homoeroticism in that moment was off the charts. Was that something you were conscious of while shooting it?
ELLIS: I wasn’t. I know Alexander said that from his standpoint he thinks Eric is a little drawn to Lafayette. My intentions were that I was completely terrified of Eric and what he can do to me. As far as I know, I hated his guts. It’s funny what the camera picks up… Alan has been making jokes about me and Eric and what’s to come in the third season. I definitely think I’ll be one of his henchmen, but as far down the rabbit hole as that goes, I don’t know.
So we can assume that Lafayette does, in fact, survive to see a third season?
ELLIS: I think I’m back for the third season.
Do you think it’s possible for Lafayette to settle down and have a normal relationship with a guy?
ELLIS: I don’t know that his normal is the general norm for everybody. I don’t think he’ll ever be normal to everybody’s standards. I do hope, though, that the dude can find someone that he loves and that loves him back. Everybody should be capable of that — even Lafayette. (Additional reporting by Jeremy Medina)
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Ken Tucker on the season 2 premiere