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Nelsan Ellis Dies: True Blood’s Lafayette Was 39

Nelsan Ellis

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Nelsan Ellis of True Blood and Elementary fame has died at age 39.

His rep confirmed to E! News Saturday the actor passed away after complications with heart failure.

“He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed,” his manager told The Hollywood Reporter.

Ellis was born in Illinois and grew up there and in Alabama. He graduated from Julliard and began his onscreen acting career in  the early ’00s. His big break came in 2008, when he made his debut as Lafayette Reynolds, the beloved short order cook and medium on all HBO’s True Blood. He played the character on all seven seasons of the horror and drama series, which aired between 2008 and 2014. Ellis most recently starred as reformed criminal Shinwell Johnson on CBS’ Elementary.

“Heartbreaking,” Deborah Ann Woll, who played the vampire Jessica on True Blood, wrote on Twitter Saturday in response to the news of his death.

“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “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.”

“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me,” said True Blood creator Alan Ball: “Working with him was a privilege.”

Ellis is survived by his son Breon Ellis, his father Tommie Lee Thompson, seven siblings, his aunt and his grandmother, The Hollywood Reporter said.

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