Nelsan Ellis Nelsan Ellis

Sunday's True Blood premiere answered at least one burning question: Is Lafayette alive? Answer: Yes! Nobody is more surprised by this turn of events than Nelsan Ellis, the actor who plays Lafayette.

As a fan of the Sookie Stackhouse novel series, on which Alan Ball based the vampire drama for HBO, Ellis knew that Lafayette, Merlotte's wisecracking cook — and part-time pornographer/drug dealer — is totally dunzo after Book 1. When he arrived on set for the finale episode's table read, he prepared himself for the end. "I thought, this was fun, time to look for the next gig," he says.

But then... what's this? That painted toenail in the car didn't belong to Lafayette after all! "'You know we're not going to kill you, right?'" Ellis remembers Ball telling him. "And I was like, 'Noooo...'" Ball told the actor that he decided to keep Lafayette in the cast after shooting a scene between Ellis and Rutina Wesley, who plays Lafayette's cousin, Tara, in the pilot episode. Ellis and Wesley have combustive chemistry for sure, which Ellis attributes to their long friendship. (They attended Juilliard together in the early '00s.)

So now that Lafayette has been spared, what's next for the flamboyant entrepreneur?

When we last saw him, he was chained up in a dungeon watching a fellow prisoner get disemboweled by a very cranky Eric, his vampire captor. Ellis reveals that, this season, Lafayette's fate will be inextricably tied with that of the vampires, but that their relationship won't always be quite as adversarial. "[Lafayette] stays with the vampires basically throughout the season," he says. "I guess how deep down the rabbit hole he goes with Eric is the biggest teaser I can give."

"Eric makes people beholden to him," says Ellis. "He did it to Sookie, and now he does force Lafayette to work for him to repay him for something he's done for him."  Oh jeez, Lafayette isn't going to become a vampire, is he? Not any time soon, says Ellis. "I have a sneaking suspicion that, in the future, the vampires are going to learn to respect him and not mess with him," he says. "He's going to find a way to elevate his position with them. Lafayette is a survivor, so he's not going to stay in this scared state too long." Excellent!