Nelsan Ellis sassed his way into our hearts as Lafayette Reynolds in “True Blood,” the critically acclaimed HBO vampire (among other things) saga.
According to Variety, the 39-year-old actor died from complications due to heart failure.
Octavia Spencer, who starred with Ellis in “The Help,” was one of the first to report the news on Instagram. “True Blood” creator Alan Ball released a statement as well: “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me…Working with him was a privilege.”
Born in Illinois in 1977, Ellis grew up in Alabama, raised until he was 15 by his aunt along with his siblings. He joined the Marines at the age of 17, but did not stay with them long, preferring to attend Illinois State University. He then attended Juilliard and received a B.F.A.
For “True Blood,” he won multiple awards during his 80-episode, seven-season run. He then went on to star in films such as “The Butler,” “The Help,” and “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” as well as leading CBS’ “Elementary,” now in its fifth season.
His unexpected death left friends, co-stars and family members reeling, including his survivors: his grandmother, father, son and seven siblings.