Nelsan Ellis, known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood”, has passed away at age 39.
The actor died after complications from heart failure.
On True Blood, Lafayette was a short order cook at Merlotte’s. In the books, he was killed off, but because Ellis made him such an enjoyable character, he survived in the series.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO said in a statement. “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.”
“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,” said Ball. “Working with him was a privilege.”
Ellis’ “The Help” costar Octavia Spencer broke the news on Instagram Saturday morning, saying, “Just got word that we lost (Nelsan). My heart breaks for his kids and family.”
In addition to “True Blood,” Ellis’ credits also included a lead role on “Elementary” and key parts in the films “Get On Up,” “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” “Little Boxes,” and “The Butler.”
Ellis leaves behind his son, Breon, father, grandmother, as well as seven siblings. His mother, Jackie Ellis, predeceased him in death.
Ellis was born in Harvey, Ill. He attended Thorn Ridge High School in Dolton, Illinois. He later attended Oxford University and Columbia College in Chicago, before graduating from the famed Juilliard School.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Jenesse Center or The Restoration Ministries Church of God and Christ.