Nelsan Ellis, who brought to life Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s hit series and book adaptation True Blood, has died at the age of 39. According to his manager, Ellis passed early on Saturday due to heart failure.
Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” [Emily Gerson] Saines said. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
On True Blood, Lafayette was a short order cook at Merlotte’s. In the books, he was killed off, but because Ellis made him such an enjoyable character, he survived in the series.
“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.”
In the book series, The Southern Vampire Mysteries by author Charlaine Harris, Ellis’ character was killed off early. Ellis’ portrayal of the short order cook was so beloved by fans of the show that producers extended his presence.
Ellis’ co-stars and fans of True Blood have posted loving tributes and messages for the Illinois native and Juilliard School graduate.
— Anna Paquin (@AnnaPaquin) July 8, 2017
I don't know if I've ever seen the level of humility and kindness that came with the Magnificent Talent that Nelsan Ellis had. Miss u friend
— Sam Trammell (@SamTrammell) July 8, 2017
Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis. He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist. RIP pic.twitter.com/fvtquhIac7
— Joe Manganiello (@JoeManganiello) July 8, 2017
Rest Powerfully in Peace, Nelsan Ellis.