‘True Blood’ Actor Nelsan Ellis Dies At 39

Nelsan Ellis, most famous for his role as short-order cook Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s ‘True Blood’, has passed away after complications with heart failure. This was confirmed by his manager Emily Gerson Saines.


Born in Harvey, Illinois in 1977, Ellis went to Thorn Ridge High School before attending Illinois State University. Ellis then earned his B.F.A. from the prestigious Juilliard School, where he also found himself a class above his eventual ‘True Blood’ co-star, Rutina Wesley.


The Huffington Post

Via The Huffington Post


In 2008, Ellis joined the cast for ‘True Blood’, a HBO dark horror fantasy television show based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris. Since then, he has remained on the main cast for all seven seasons. 


Before he started playing his first gay character, Ellis discussed some of his concerns with NewNowNext in an interview. “I didn’t care what straight people thought. I cared what gay people thought, to be quite honest,” he said. “Because Alan didn’t want a caricature. He said that quite early on, because I was a caricature the first audition. My concern was if I was going to offend anybody. I don’t want to offend nobody.”


In order to make sure this did not happen, Ellis informed The Hollywood Reporter that he primarily based the character of Lafayette Reynolds on his late mom. 



Via The Hollywood Reporter


“My mother was a tomboy, and Alan Ball wanted this character to be feminine and masculine,” he said. “Every time I play this character — because my mother died — I have a piece of my mama, I have a piece of her memories and who she was. She died in the third season, and my favorite part of Lafayette is every time I play him, I’m doing my mother.”


Following his great success on TV, he started taking part in films such as ‘The Help,’ ‘Little Boxes,’ ‘The Butler,’ ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment,’ and ‘Get On Up.’ Most recently, he also starred in CBS’s fifth season of ‘Elementary.’


The Help

Ellis as Henry the Waiter in The Help (2011) | Via Dreamworks


Yesterday, news suddenly broke that Ellis has died at only 39 years old. HBO and ‘True Blood’ creator and executive producer Alan Ball both posted statements regarding Ellis’ passing.


“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 said, “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”


In response to his death, several ‘True Blood’ lead stars used social media platforms to express their mournings and best regards.



Besides cast members from ‘True Blood’, other celebrities such as Jessica Chastain and Anna Camp also expressed grief towards such a terrible loss.



‘The Help’ co-star Octavia Spencer was the first person to address his tragic passing on Instagram.


Ellis is survived by his son, his father, a grandmother as well as seven siblings.


His final film, ‘True To The Game’, was adapted on the novel of the same name by Teri Woods. Directed by Preston A. Whitmore II and produced by Manny Halley, this film will arrive in theaters in September.


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