Nelsan Ellis, the actor best known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on True Blood, has died, Us Weekly confirms. He was 39.
“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” Ellis’ manager Emily Gerson Saines said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday, July 8. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
“He was not only a gifted artist, but he was a very special person with a kind and a gentle soul,” Saines added in a statement to Us.
Ellis starred as short order cook Lafayette on the HBO drama until its series finale in August 2014. Lafayette was killed off in the original book series, but survived the TV show largely because Ellis turned the character into a fan-favorite.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO said in a statement to THR. “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.”
Several stars paid tribute to the late actor after the news of his death broke on Saturday afternoon. True Blood creator Alan Ball told THR, “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceases to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.” Ellis’ The Help costar Octavia Spencer wrote on Instagram, “Just got word that we lost @nelsanellisofficial. My heart breaks for his kids and family.”
In addition to True Blood, Ellis also starred in numerous TV shows and films, including Elementary, The Butler and the James Brown biopic Get On Up.
Ellis is survived by his son, Breon, and seven siblings: Lakeeia Thomson, Tommie Lee Thompson, Babon Ellis, Maurice Turne, Tianna Thompson, Shaentika Beard and Yvonne Ellis.
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