November 23, 2008

Ellis of ‘Blood’ credits teachers for fame

Actor Nelsan Ellis, who appears in the HBO series True Blood, says two teachers in Dolton, Ill., are responsible for his entertainment career success.

The actor, who plays Lafayette Reynolds on the vampire-themed drama, said Thornridge High teachers Tim Sweeney and Bill Kirksey helped change his life during his formative teenage years, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday.

I had no intention of being an actor, said Ellis, who moved to Dolton at the age of 14 after his mother was shot.

Motivated by his girlfriend at the time, Ellis joined the speech team and fell under the tutelage of Sweeney and Kirksey.

The black actor told the Sun-Times his ensuing experiences in competitions and then in school plays helped him find a new direction in his life.

It was my first experience being at a school where you had teenage black men who were serious about stuff, and you had these teachers who cared about the students and paid attention, Ellis said. I was, like: I'll do this because people seem to be serious. My years at Thornridge probably changed the course of my life.