On Sunday, July 9th, the world said goodbye to Nelsan Ellis. Ellis may not have been a household name by the time of his death, he was well on his way and a beloved Sunday night fixture for fans of HBO’s long running supernatural soap True Blood. His groundbreaking role as Lafayette, Merlotte’s Bar and Grill’s flamboyant but hard as nails fry cook and spiritual medium, made waves for his portrayal of an unapologetically gay man in rural Louisiana. Because it’s set against the backdrop of the “coming out” of the vampire world, many critics saw this example of social upheaval as a metaphor for the gay rights movement itself.
True Blood fans, sometimes called Fangbangers in darker corners of the internet, have long been memorializing their love of the series in body art. Based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse mysteries — pulpy fantasy romance novels — Alan Ball developed the series for HBO in 2007, amidst the pop culture vampire centric mania of the early 2000s. The show was a quick hit and Ellis was a breakout star from the start. Sadly, we couldn’t find any tattoo tributes to him, but we’re certain that before too long, some Trubie is going to get one. He more than deserves it after all he went through on the show.
Whether it was dealing with Sookie’s nonstop drama or his new brujo boyfriend's overbearing Aztec god/grandfather, Lafayette embodied the person we all would like to be in the face of extreme social change: cool as fuck and eternally fabulous. We’ll never forget the time he put those rednecks in their place after they called his gourmet cooking an “AIDS burger,” bitch slapping the mouthiest of them.
In short, Ellis is a talent lost too soon, and the world is lesser without him. It has lost not only a gay icon but a champion of progressivism, not to mention one hell of a personality to watch on screen. At least we'll always have Bon Temps, the little, debauched setting of True Blood, to help us mourn. Every time we rewatch the show, Lafayette will still be behind the counter dishing out shade and his fine Southern cuisine.
If you’re a true Fangbanger and have a tattoo tribute to Ellis, please share it with us at #RIPLafayette, or go out and get one from one of the artists seen here, and then share it with us. It’s about time that this pop culture icon gets a tribute in the form of body art.