Nelsan Ellis, the actor known for his role of Lafayette on the HBO series True Blood, died at the age of 39.
His manager, Emily Gerson Saines, confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter 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.”
As Lafayette, the sassafras cook at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill, Ellis was one of the cast members who stayed with True Blood up until the final season, which capped 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.”
True Blood creator Alan Ball called working with Ellis “a privilege.” He said in his own statement, “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me.”
Octavia Spencer, who starred alongside Ellis in the James Brown biopic Get On Up, wrote in a post on Instagram, “Just got word that we lost @nelsanellisofficial. My heart breaks for his kids and family.”
More to come.