By now, most of you – at least those of you who watch True Blood – should be all caught up with the reason behind the recasting of the character, James, who is Jessica’s boyfriend and Lafayette’s new love interest. In season 6, the character was played by actor Luke Grimes, who did a mostly good job in the role. I certainly had no complaints, though perhaps that had a lot to do with the fact that he reminded me of one of my favourite shows, Brothers & Sisters. Anyway, when the seventh and final season of True Blood began, fans of the show were left in confusion, as James suddenly had a new face, played by actor Nathan Parsons. At first, the word from Luke Grimes’ camp was that his schedule didn’t allow him to proceed with the show. Fine, no big deal; after all, this happens all the time in Hollywood so we couldn’t fault him for that. However, not long after, reports started emerging that the real reason behind the recasting decision was that Luke Grimes was unwilling to portray James as gay. Apparently, he had no issue if Lafayette were attracted to James, but having James reciprocate the action was a deal breaker. New unknown actor says what now??
Naturally, very many people took issue with that – myself included. As an actor, your job is to play the role that is written for you. Unless you’re the writer, you don’t get to dictate what that character is or becomes. To refuse to play the character as it was intended to be played was nothing short of a slap in the face of those who entrusted him with the role. Now, let’s get something straight right now. As much as I wouldn’t appreciate any actor refusing to play a character merely because this character were gay, I don’t think that I’d hold it against the actor if the role had been offered, and the actor turned it down. Turning down the role wouldn’t necessarily be an indication that the actor is homophobic; it could mean that he was just concerned with the ramifications for his future career, or that he wasn’t entirely sold on the storyline, or that he didn’t think that he’d do the character justice. All of these are perfectly reasonable outcomes. However, Luke Grimes had already been playing the character for an entire year – he knew exactly what the show was like. So, while he had no issue playing a vampire who would probably end up murdering humans, or engage in raunchy sex scenes with a pretty red-head, or even have a gay character show interest in him, his limits were drawn when it came to depicting love for another man. Nothing anyone can say can convince me that this wasn’t driven by homophobia. What made the entire thing most insulting to me is that the guy took up a role in 50 Shades of Grey! No disrespect to 50 Shades, but can you name me a recent series that has been described as more risqué and filthy than this thing? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Where were his morals when he took up that role?
Anyhomphobesarehypocrites, Nelsan Ellis, who plays the always flawless Lafayette on True Blood, opened up to Vulture about Luke Grimes’ stance on the matter.
… I mean, I can say I’m not going to make a comment, but I just think that, you’re an actor, you’re an actor on a show that’sTrue Blood, we’re all sitting there going, “You quit your job because … really?” I’m just… I’m over him. You quit your job because you don’t want to play a gay part? As if it’s … You know what? I’m going to stop talking.
That’s okay. I get what you’re saying. If you’re going to be on True Blood, you have to be open to a lot of experiences.
You have to be open. But more importantly, you make a statement when you do something like that. I did a documentary called Damn Wonderful, about gay suicide, and you make a statement, a big statement, when you go, “I don’t want to play this part because it’s gay.” If you have a child, if you have a son, and he comes out as gay, what are you going to do? If you have a daughter who comes out gay …? You just made a statement, and it has ripple effects. First of all, this show, it’s True Blood, and shit, we get scared when we read scripts! Excuse my language. When scripts come, we’re like, “What are they going to have us do this week?” But when you make a statement that is a judgment … I was kind of like, “Have you met Alan Ball?” I’m supposed to do what my boss tells me to do, as an actor. I can’t approach a character with judgment. I certainly can’t tell my boss, “I can act what I want to act, but not what you tell me to act,” especially on a show where you come in, knowing what it is. I was like, “Okay… I guess?” I just thought that, having just done the documentary, I didn’t like what he did because he made a statement, and sometimes you have to take responsibility.
For those who are familiar with the character of Lafayette, you will know that it’s next to impossible for anyone playing the role to ever compare to him in real life. But holy hell! Does Nelsan Ellis come close or what?! This was a beautiful response to the situation, and he did it eloquently, concisely and without any need for throwing shade.
Nelsan Ellis is straight, and although his portrayal of Lafayette solo has always been astounding and flawless, I have always felt his love scenes with other men to be somewhat awkward and uncomfortable. It turns out that I wasn’t too far off, because in this same interview he mentions how weird it feels to do the kissing scenes. However, in spite of his personal reservations, he puts his all into it, and the overall effect is professional and wonderful.
When it comes to personal convictions, everyone has a right to stand by theirs, including actors. So, as much as I disapprove of Luke Grimes’ mentality, I will never wish badly for him, personally or professionally. However, I also think that when it comes to personal convictions, everyone has a responsibility to be smart where they profess them. If you have an issue with homosexuality, then it would probably be best for you to find work in a fundamental Christian organisation, or even perhaps in Republican politics. Why you would choose to immerse yourself in Hollywood is beyond me. The industry, after all, is not short on gay people, and who knows how this incident is going to affect Luke Grimes’ career. Perhaps 50 Shades of Grey will be such a hit, and he will be so phenomenal in his role, that everyone will look past this little indiscretion. However, if it doesn’t, how exactly does he plan on selling himself to future directors (gay or straight) as the guy who refused to play his assigned character because it wouldn’t be written to coincide specifically with his personal beliefs?
Pic via Pop Wrapped