From The Grio — While America’s fascination with all things vampire seems to be cooling off, the HBO seriesTrue Blood manages to stay fresh.
Season four of the hit series is underway with one notable wrinkle central to the series being actor Nelsan Ellis’ portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds, a gay cook, prostitute and “blood” dealer. Ellis’ popularity on the small screen has forced producers to keep him on the show despite the character of Lafayette being killed off at the end of the first book on which the series is inspired.
What is most interesting about Ellis’ portrayal of Lafayette is its departure from the norm of how most homosexual men are usually presented to television audiences. Lafayette doesn’t shy away from being flamboyant yet, his flamboyance is darkly hued and coupled with a signature strength and masculinity that shows he is unashamed of who he is but fiercely defensive of the life he lives and the people he chooses to love.
The question remains, in a world still uncomfortable discussing issues of sexual orientation in an adult way, how far does a character like Lafayette go towards changing hearts and minds on what a gay man can be on screen?
Ellis’ portrayal is certainly seminal but not entirely groundbreaking, even for HBO.
Few characters have made their sexual orientation secondary to what they are to viewers like Omar Little, played by Michael Kenneth Williams, did on The Wire.
Throughout that series, Little, a strictly principled thief, it portrayed with a depth that conveys that he is much more than just a gay man. The layers Little peeled away over five seasons not only challenged the traditional role of a gay man on screen but he managed to strike fear in the hearts of the characters around him too. Not because of the taboo nature of his sexual orientation but the violent and vicious crusade he was on while navigating the Baltimore drug scene. His sexual orientation became inconsequential to who he actually was.