In a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter on Monday via Ellis’ manager Emily Gerson Saines, the actor’s family explained that Ellis struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for years before he died due to heart failure complications at the age of 39 on Saturday.
Nelsan’s father has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan’s heart failure. Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years. After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own. According to his father, during his withdrawal from alcohol he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted and his dear sweet heart raced out of control.
On the morning of Saturday July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul. He was a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew and a great friend to those that were lucky enough to know him. Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.
Ellis’ manager confirmed the news to THR on Saturday: “Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” she said. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
Ellis starred as fan-favorite cook Lafayette on the hit HBO series, which concluded in 2014.
“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.”
Several stars have since taken to social media to honor the late actor. Ellis is survived by his son, Breon, as well as his grandmother, Alex Brown, and his father, Tommie Lee Thompson, reports THR. He is also survived by his siblings Lakeeia Thomson, Tommie Lee Thompson, Babon Ellis, Maurice Turne, Tianna Thompson, Shaentika Beard and Yvonne Ellis and aunt Tartheaia Thompson.