Unfortunately, there are few roles with the depth of a Fresh, and Nelson found himself making the rounds of the cop shows, playing the bad kid who gets arrested or killed. Remembering an awards show at which someone told him he looked good as a villain provoked concerns about typecasting, but he finally landed the plum role of Donny in Michael Corrente's film adaptation of David Mamet's "American Buffalo" (1996), holding his own against screen heavyweights Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz. He also played a minister's son in the 1950s period piece "Stranger in the Kingdom" (1998), but it was "The Wood" (1999) that finally showcased the kind of talent he had revealed in "Fresh." In an ensemble cast that included the likes of Omar Epps and Richard T. Jones, it was Nelson that gave this coming-of-age saga its heart, playing Epps' character as an adolescent, recently transplanted to Inglewood, California from North Carolina. These flashback sequences make the story truly comes alive, with Nelson and Malinda Williams (as his love interest) giving the film's standout performances.