'True Blood' Star Nelsan Ellis on How LA Cancer Fundraiser Hits Close to Home (Q&A)

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UPDATED: Performing at the Mar. 4 CureConstanceCampaign event, Ellis tells THR about his mother's sudden death and how it put him into action.

There are almost countless organizations working in one way or another with cancer, but on March 4 a new group with a focus on helping those gravely affected by the disease is having a comedy fundraiser.

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The CureConstanceCampaign will kickoff with its Love A Life fundraiser at the Soho House. The organization plans to offer support to those in the advanced stages of cancer. They’ve got Nelsan Ellis (HBO’s True Blood), plus Emmy-nominated writers/comedians Laurie Kilmartin and Brian Kiley (TBS' Conan) set to perform.

Actress Yakira Chambers whose mother, Constance, was diagnosed last year with stage IV cancer started the organization. Her idea is to create a program that can lend support; offer financial solutions (perhaps even paying rent) and increase the independence of those with cancer. “People often lose hope because they feel there is nowhere to turn,” says Chambers. “We want to help change that.”

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THR spoke to Ellis about why he’s a supporter.
The Hollywood Reporter: What got you into this?
Nelsan Ellis: “My mom passed away from cancer last year. It was painful to watch and to have no assistance from the medical profession, other than morphine. There was nothing they could do. That was probably the most god-awful thing.”
THR: Was this a long process?

Ellis: “My mother was diagnosed on a Tuesday and she died 7 days. This was like a drive-by shooting. And the only thing the doctors could tell us was they were sorry. She was solely on morphine.”
THR: What was the worst part?

Ellis: “Not having hope. That was the most excruciating thing. In my mother’s case, I know it wasn’t her time. She was in a coma and her best friend came to her bed and said ‘Peaches, get up out that bed. We got to go to a party.’ And her eyes opened a bit and she literally tried to lift herself. Somewhere, she heard that.”

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THR: What do you want to do?

Ellis: “I’m just going to do whatever I can do – raise money, bring awareness. At this point, I abhor cancer. I hate cancer. I want to do whatever I can to give people hope and a sense that there’s a chance.”