Photo courtesy of Emily Gerson Saines
Nelsan Ellis, the actor who portrayed Lafayette Reynolds on the popular HBO series, True Blood, has died at the age of 39.
His manager Emily Gerson Saines shared the news with The Hollywood Reporter, explaining that he passed away after complications with heart failure. She added, “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
On True Blood, Ellis starred as Lafayette Reynolds, a short order cook at Merlotte’s, for the show’s entire seven season run. In the novels, Lafayette was killed at the beginning of the second book in the series, but Ellis’ popularity saved the character on the show.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO said in a statement. “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.”
True Blood creator, Alan Ball added, “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”
In addition to True Blood, Ellis played Martin Luther King, Jr. in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and portrayed R&B singer Bobby Byrd in the 2013 James Brown biopic, Get on Up. More recently, he co-starred in the excellent 2015 film, The Stanford Prison Experiment.
Several True Blood cast members paid tribute to the actor on social media. See those posts below.