Viola Davis and ‘True Blood’ Stars Mourn Nelsan Ellis at Funeral

Nelsan Ellis
Nelsan Ellis attends the 'Little Boxes' Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 15, 2016. Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

Nelsan Ellis was laid to rest in his hometown of Harvey, Illinois, on Saturday, July 22, after a star-studded public funeral service at Holy Temple Cathedral.

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Viola Davis, Tika Sumpter, and Ellis’ True Blood costars Anna Paquin, Carrie Preston and Rutina Wesley were among the stars who attended the funeral in honor of the actor, who died at the age of 39 on July 8 of what his family said were complications of withdrawal from alcohol addiction.

“He was like my baby,” Davis, who starred with Ellis in the films The Help and Get on Up, said during her speech at the service, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “When I saw that he was sick, I begged him to get better because I didn’t want to let him go. I still don’t want to let him go.”

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Former President Barack Obama did not attend, though he paid tribute to Ellis — who spent time in foster care as a child — in a letter read aloud at the service. “Nelsan inspired those around him and a generation of Americans through his own story of overcoming adversity,” Obama’s letter read. “He will be remembered through his stellar performances and will live on through the beauty of the art he created.”

After the funeral, the Elementary actor was buried at Cedar Park Cemetery next to his grandmother and grandfather.

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Ellis is survived by his son, Breon, and siblings Lakeeia Thomson, Tommie Lee Thompson, Babon Ellis, Maurice Turne, Tianna Thompson, Shaentika Beard and Yvonne Ellis.

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