True Blood and Elementary star Nelsan Ellis dies at 39

Contributed by
Jul 8, 2017, 4:34 PM EDT

Nelsan Ellis, best known for his spellbinding portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds on the HBO series True Blood, has passed away due to complications from heart failure. He was 39. Ellis' manager, Emily Gerson Saines, confirmed his passing to The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday.

"Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure," Saines said. "He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed."

True Blood creator Alan Ball also released a statement to memorialize Ellis.

"Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege."

An Illinois native, Ellis' early acting prowess earned him acceptance at the legendary Juilliard School, where he earned his degree in 2004. Just a few years later he was cast as Lafayette, a character originally killed off early in author Charlaine Harris' series of novels. Ellis' portrayal of the character made Lafayette a fan favorite, and he remained a fixture of the show throughout its run. The success of True Blood led Ellis to numerous other acclaimed supporting roles in films like The Butler and Get On Up and, last year, a prominent place on the CBS Sherlock Holmes series Elementary.

Ellis is survived by grandmother Alex Brown, father Tommie Lee Thompson, son Breon Ellis and seven siblings. The family has requested, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made in Ellis' name to the Jenesse Center or The Restoration Ministries Church of God and Christ.

Rest in peace, Nelsan.