Elementary: Nelsan Ellis on His Recurring Role as Shinwell Johnson
In his new recurring role on CBS’s Elementary, True Blood vet Nelsan Ellis (above) again plays a colorful, somewhat dubious character based on a literary creation. Ellis became a fan favorite as the flamboyant medium and illicit pill dealer Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s long-running vampire drama inspired by the Charlaine Harris book series.
His Elementary character comes from a much older work: Former convict Shinwell Johnson first showed up in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1924 Sherlock Holmes story “The Illustrious Client.” In the modern retelling, “Shinwell is a former drug dealer who wants to reform,” says Ellis. “At heart, he’s a good guy. He’s just not used to living an upstanding life.”
Now that he’s consulting on cases with Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) and Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), “Shinwell is adding a little grit to the normal proceedings,” says Elementary’s creator, Rob Doherty. But he won’t be a supporting player forever. Hints Doherty, “As we get further into the season, we’ll realize Shinwell is carrying a bit more baggage than we understood. He becomes a case unto himself.” Good thing he’s hanging around Sherlock.
Elementary, Sunday, Oct. 23,10/9c, CBS