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Nelsan Ellis, Breakout Star of ‘True Blood,’ Dies at 39

The actor earned acclaim as Lafayette Reynolds over seven seasons of the HBO hit vampire series.

Nelsan Ellis

Nelsan Ellis


Nelsan Ellis has passed away at 39 from complications from heart failure, his manager Emily Gerson Saines has confirmed with The Hollywood Reporter. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed,” Saines said in an official statement.

Ellis was best known for his breakout role on “True Blood,” where he played short order cook and drug dealer Lafayette Reynolds. The actor appeared on the hit HBO vampire series for its entire seven-season run and earned awards from the NAACP Image Awards and Satellite Awards for his performance. In recent years, Ellis could be seen on the big screen in supporting turns in “The Help,” “The Butler” and “Get On Up.” He most recently appeared opposite Melanie Lynskey in the indie drama “Little Boxes.”

Ellis is already being remembered by his peers, including Oscar winner and his “Get On Up” co-star Octavia Spencer.

HBO has released this official statement: “We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis. 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.

Added “True Blood” creator Alan Ball, “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”

Ellis is survived by his father, grandmother and son.

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