Actor Nelsan Ellis of ‘True Blood’, Dead at 39

Nelsan Ellis, perhaps best known for his portrayal of the character Lafayette Reynolds in the now-ended HBO series True Blood, passed away over the weekend in Los Angeles. Ellis was 39.

HBO provided confirmation of his death, but did not say what the cause of death was.

While covering the story, The Hollywood Reporter quoted Ellis’s manager, Emily Gerson Saines, citing the cause of the death as heart failure. However, in the article, it was stated that Ms. Saines did not provide further comment on the event when the publication followed up with further questioning.

Nelsan Elis starred in the HBO hit show True Blood for its entire 2008 to 2014 run as Lafayette Reynolds, known by viewers as the scene-stealing vampire blood dealer/diner cook in the rural area of Louisiana. The series had a run of 80 episodes and though the fanbase focus was primarily on which relationships to ship, Mr. Ellis’s portrayal of Lafayette quickly made him a fan favorite as well.

The news of his death hit his co-stars over the weekend which much shock and sadness.

The star of the show, 34-year-old actress Anna Paquin, tweeted her condolences on social media:

“It was an utter privilege to work with the phenomenally talented and deeply kind soul. (Nelsan) I’m devastated by his untimely death.”

Another former co-star Joe Manganiello tweeted on Saturday, “Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis. He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist. RIP”

In addition to True Blood, Ellis could also be seen in Hollywood films like The Butler, where he portrayed the legendary activist Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He also played in the 2014 James Brown biopic Get On Up alongside Chadwick Boseman and 2011’s The Help. More recently, he had a guest starring role in the acclaimed CBS series Elementary.

Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, who worked with Ellis in The Help, also paid homage to the actor that is no longer with us. Read her touching Instagram post to Ellis below.

Update: Per The Hollywood Reporter, Nelsan Ellis died on Saturday due to heart failure that resulted from alcohol withdrawal complications. Rest in Power.

Photo Credit: PR Photos

Sheriden Chanel is a twenty-something writer, Beyoncé enthusiast, and lover of all things visual art. Keep up with her and her musings on social via @indiebyline.