Nelsan Ellis

Recent Articles

Too many loose ends in Get On Up

By Charles Hallman
Staff writer


Any actor hired to play “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” in a biopic expectedly would be challenged at every split or scream he’d attempt in character on screen. Chadwick Boseman demonstrated this as he played the late James Brown in Get On Up, based on the legendary singer’s life – the film hit theaters today (Friday, August 1). “It’s hard to do James Brown,” says Kenny Lang, adding that it takes “a high energetic actor” to portray the singer. He and Sybil Lang saw an advance screening of the movie July 29 at AMC Southdale Center 16 in Edina. “I was hoping the story would have more on [Brown] up to his death [in 2006],” says Sybil Lang. Continue Reading →

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Will Get On Up get it right?

James Brown a/k/a the Godfather of Soul, precursor to Prince, did not lead what you would call a wholesome life. He grew up in a shack dirt poor, lived in a brothel, went to prison at age 16 for robbery, later went to prison again for assault and battery and, throughout his career — despite insisting his band members stay clean — did drugs, abused women and, well, as the expression goes, wasn’t nothin’ nice. On the other hand, his was, it goes without saying, one hell of a career. He was, onstage, on record and over the radio — long before MTV — celebrated, hell, worshipped as the entertainment heart and soul of grassroots Black America at its grittiest. When he released “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” it immediately became the national anthem for a 1960s groundswell that saw increasing urban unrest and hailed Brown as Soul Brother No. Continue Reading →

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GLBT characters of color on the big and small screens


It’s hard enough finding straight people of color — including Black folk — on TV and film, never mind non-hetero depictions. Here’s a thumbnail sketch roundup of positive portrayals. In the interest of being thankful for small favors, let us acknowledge that pitiful as it is, some progress has been made. True Blood, the HBO hit pitting vampires versus werewolves with humans stuck in the middle, against a rural Louisiana backdrop, saw a gay Black man not only as a principal character, but also one with strong dimension. Nelsan Ellis (who, by the by, plays Martin Luther King, Jr. in 2013’s The Butler) plays pragmatic hard-a** with a heart of gold Lafayette Reynolds. Continue Reading →

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