Actor Nelsan Ellis, famous for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood”, is dead. He was 39.
The actor died on Saturday after complications from heart failure, reports variety.com.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis. Nelsan was a long-time member of the HBO family whose groundbreaking portrayal of Lafayette will be remembered fondly within the overall legacy of ‘True Blood’. Nelsan will be dearly missed by his fans and all of us at HBO,” a statement issued on behalf of HBO read.
“True Blood” creator and executive producer Alan Ball echoed HBO’s epitaph in a statement of his own.
“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege,” Ball said.
Ellis’s “The Help” co-star Octavia Spencer broke the news on Instagram on Saturday morning, saying: “Just got word that we lost (Nelsan). My heart breaks for his kids and family.”
Born in Harvey, Illinois, in 1977, he and his siblings moved to Alabama to live with their aunt before Ellis decided to move back to Chicago at age 15. At 17, he joined the Marines, but quit shortly after. After studying at the Illinois State University, Ellis went on to get his B.F.A. from Juilliard, where he just so happened to be a class above his eventual “True Blood” costar, Rutina Wesley.
After a single season on Fox’s “The Inside” opposite Rachel Nichols and Adam Baldwin and an episode of “Veronica Mars,” Ellis was then cast in the role that would define his career — gay short order cook Lafayette Reynolds.
After 80 episodes over the span of seven seasons, Ellis walked away with a handful of sought after awards: Two Satellite Awards, an Ewwy for best supporting dramatic actor, and a NewNowNext Award for actor on the brink of fame.
Following the success of “True Blood”, Ellis moved from TV to film, landing key roles in movies like “Get On Up”, “The Stanford Prison Experiment”, “Little Boxes”, “The Butler” and “The Help”. The actor was seen in a lead role on the just-wrapped fifth season of “Elementary”.
“Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis,” said “True Blood” co-star Joe Manganiello.
Manganiello added: “He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist. RIP.”
Ellis is survived by his grandmother, his father and his son, Breon, as well as seven siblings.
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