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Nelsan Ellis, the actor best known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on the HBO series “True Blood,” has died, his manager Emily Gerson Saines confirmed in a statement Saturday. He was 39 years old.
“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.”
Ellis appeared on “True Blood” for the show’s entire 7-season run, playing the short-order cook at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill on the HBO horror series. The network issued a statement following the news of Ellis’ death.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” the statement said. “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.”
Ellis’ body of work also included appearances in films such as “The Help” and “Get On Up”, as well as TV shows such as “Elementary.” Before his death, Ellis filmed the movie “True to the Game,” which is set to be released on September 8. His last post on Instagram promoted the film.
Born in Illinois, Ellis spent some of his early years in Alabama, where he was raised by his grandmother. He later returned to Illinois to live with his aunt. At the age of 21, Ellis enrolled in the Juilliard School Drama Division, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in 2004.
Ellis’ death is being mourned by his fans, as well as his friends and former “True Blood” co-stars, some of whom took to social media to express their condolences.
“It was an utter privilege to work with the phenomenally talented and deeply kind soul .@OfficialNelsan I'm devastated by his untimely death,” Anna Paquin wrote on Saturday.
“Nelsan Ellis was truly remarkable. A brilliant, charismatic, intelligent, soulful, wonderful dude. this is just completely tragic,” Stephen Moyer tweeted.
“My brother and a piece of my heart is gone from here ... but just gone on,” Jim Parrack tweeted. “@OfficialNelsan thank you for sharing your life sweet angel.”
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the level of humility and kindness that came with the Magnificent Talent that Nelsan Ellis had,” Sam Trammell wrote on Twitter.
"No one could raise a brow like @OfficialNelsan An army of us r left wanting more. Wherever you are sir,wish u peace," Lauren Bowles tweeted with a photo her posing with Ellis.
Ellis is survived by his father, grandmother, aunt and siblings, as well as his 10-year-old son Breon. Ellis was very close to his family, and often posted photos of them to his Instagram account.