Nelsan Ellis, best known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood, has died. He was 39.
Ellis died from complications from heart failure, his manager, Emily Gerson Saines, told The Hollywood Reporter. The full statement reads as follows:
“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.”
“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 has also released a statement, calling Ellis a “singular talent”:
Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.
Additional tributes can be read here.
Following True Blood‘s seven-year run on the premium cabler, Ellis booked the series regular role of Shinwell Johnson on the CBS procedural Elementary. His character was killed off last May.
Ellis’ additional TV credits included short-lived Fox drama The Inside, as well as guest appearances on Veronica Mars and Without a Trace. On the big screen, Ellis portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr. in Lee Daniels’ The Butler.