Sunday, July 9, 2017


Nelsan Ellis, who played sassy short-order cook Lafayette Reynolds on HBO's True Blood, has died at 39 of complications from heart failure.

His manager, Emily Gerson Saines, confirmed his death on Saturday to USA TODAY. 

"He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed," she said in a statement.

While he also had roles on CBS' Elementary and worked in films like The HelpSecretariat, the James Brown biopic Get On and The Soloist, to fans of True Blood, he will always be Lafayette.

The Illinois-born actor so impressed the producers and fans of the HBO supernatural drama with his performance that the TV version of Lafayette escaped the early death the character was dealt in Charlaine Harris' books. 

"A great talent gone too soon," Harris lamented on Twitter. "Such a shock."
Alan Ball, who adapted her novels, and directed many episodes of the show, said in a statement, "Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege."

True Blood marked Ellis' second HBO project. He also appeared in 2005's Emmy-winning Warm Springs, in which his character tended to the polio-stricken Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Kenneth Branagh). 

The network issued a statement noting, "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."

The True Blood family mourned him on Twitter Saturday.

"It was an utter privilege to work with the phenomenally talented and deeply kind soul .@OfficialNelsan," wrote Anna Paquin, whose waitress character, Sookie Stackhouse, was close with Ellis' cook. "I'm devastated by his untimely death."

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