Nelsan Ellis, the actor who starred in HBO’s True Blood as Lafayette Reynolds, has died. He was only 39.
“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” his manager Emily Gerson Saines told The Hollywood Reporter. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
Ellis, who had been in numerous films including The Help, Get On Up and The Butler, was best known for his role as the flamboyant and hilarious Lafayette on True Blood. While the Merlotte’s short order cook (and drug dealer) was killed off in the books the show was adapted from, the creators and writers refused to kill him in the series, mostly because Ellis’s brilliant performance made the character a fan favorite, THR suggests.
Lafayette was also very popular due to him being one of the only Black gay characters on television at that time, serving as a much-needed example of representation and inclusion. And while other actors with less self-awareness and talent would have turned Lafayette into a one-dimensional caricature or the butt of the joke, Ellis gave him layers, nuance and complexity—reflecting the humanity of the Black LGBTQ community.
In a statement, HBO sent their condolences: “We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis. 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 added: “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”
People, including his former castmates, also flocked to Twitter to remember the beloved actor:
Remembering Greatness: The Celebrity Deaths Of 2016
1. Rapper Shawty Lo died in a fiery Atlanta car crash on the morning of Sept. 21.1 of 14
2. Sportscaster John Saunders passed away suddenly at the age of 61 on Aug. 10. The details surrounding his passing are still unclear.2 of 14
3. Actor Gene Wilder, best known for his role in ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,’ died on Aug. 29 from Alzheimer’s disease.3 of 14
4. Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s.4 of 14
5. Actor Anton Yelchin, best known for his role as Chekov in ‘Star Wars,’ passed away minutes after a June 19 car accident.5 of 14
6. Actor Ron Lester died on Aug. 4 of kidney failure. He was best known for his role in ‘Not Another Teen Movie.’6 of 14
7. ‘The Voice’ star Christina Grimmie was shot dead at 22 years old by a man who opened fire on her while she signed autographs.7 of 14
8. Legendary singer Prince tragically died from an accidental prescription drug overdose on April 21. He was 57-years-old.8 of 14
9. WWF wrestler and actress Chyna died from an accidental overdose of Valium and Ambien on April 20. She was 45 years old.9 of 14
10. ‘Blood, Sweat, & Heels’ reality star Daisy Lewellyn died from a rare form of liver cancer on April 8.10 of 14
11. Singer Denise Matthews, aka Vanity, died from kidney failure at the age of 57 on Feb. 15. She was Prince’s protegée and ex-girlfriend.11 of 14
12. Singer Maurice White passed away on Feb. 3 after battling Parkinson’s disease. He was the founder of R&B group Earth, Wind, & Fire.12 of 14
13. Rock star David Bowie died on Jan. 10 after battling cancer for 18 months. He was 69.13 of 14
14. A Tribe Called Quest rapper Phife Dawg passed away on March 22 due to complications from diabetes. He was 45 years old.14 of 14
Rest In Power: ‘True Blood’ Star Nelsan Ellis Dies at 39 was originally published on hellobeautiful.com