Actor Nelsan Ellis, best known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s vampire series True Blood, has died. Ellis was only 39. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news this afternoon.
Ellis’ manager, Emily Gerson Saines, spoke on the actor’s passing in an official statement, explaining that his death was a result of heart complications. “Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” Saines said. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
HBO also offered a statement on Ellis’ passing. “We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” the statement read. “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.”
Nelsan Ellis was born in Harvey, Illinois. After graduating from Thorn Ridge High School in Dolton, Illinois, Ellis went on to attend Oxford University, Columbia College in Chicago, and graduated with a degree in acting from The Julliard School in New York City. He is survived by his parents, siblings, and grandmother.
In addition to True Blood, Ellis worked on television shows such as Elementary and The Inside. Ellis’ filmography also includes roles in films such as Get on Up, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Help, and The Soloist.
Past co-stars Jessica Chastain (who starred in The Help with Ellis) and Anna Paquin (from True Blood) took to Twitter to express their sympathies. True Blood creator Alan Ball also spoke out about Ellis’ death, praising Nelsan as “a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) July 8, 2017
— Anna Paquin (@AnnaPaquin) July 8, 2017
Ellis’ family has asked those interested in offering support to donate to the Jenesse Center, which works towards domestic violence intervention and prevention, or The Restoration Ministries Church of God in Christ.