Nelsan Ellis, best known for his performance in TV series True Blood and Elementary, died of complications from heart failure. He was 39 years old.
Apart from playing Lafayette Reynolds – a gay short order cook, on True Blood, Ellis was also a playwright and a stage director. Some of his other roles include Martin Luther King Jr in Lee Daniels’ film The Butler and as singer Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic Get On Up. He also appeared in The Help.
According to Variety, Ellis was born in Harvey, Illinois in 1977. Having joined the Marines at age 17, Ellis later went on to study at Illinois State University, and even get his BFA from Juilliard, where he happened to study with his eventual True Blood co-star, Rutina Wesley.
Soon after his death, HBO released a statement mourning his death. “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.”
His former co-stars, too, paid tribute to him on social media.
— Anna Paquin (@AnnaPaquin) July 8, 2017
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 pic.twitter.com/fvtquhIac7
— Joe Manganiello (@JoeManganiello) July 8, 2017
Nelsan Ellis was truly remarkable. A brilliant, charismatic, intelligent, soulful, wonderful dude. this is just completely tragic.
— Stephen Moyer (@smoyer) July 8, 2017
Ellis is survived by his father, his grandmother, his son, Breon, and seven siblings.
Feature Image: The Wrap