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True Blood Star Nelsan Ellis Has Died At Age 39

Nelsan Ellis, famous for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood, has passed away at the age of 39. His manager, Emily Gerson Saines, made the announcement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure. He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”

Tributes to Ellis quickly came pouring in.

“Nelsan was a singular talent,” said True Blood creator Alan Ball, “whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.” Charlaine Harris, the author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels on which True Blood was based, tweeted, “I am so sad about the death of Nelsan Ellis, a great talent gone too soon. Such a shock.”

Ellis’s former castmates also spoke about his talent and creativity.

HBO also issued a statement: “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.”

Across social media, fans celebrated the strength, humor, and creativity that Ellis brought to his role as Lafayette Reynolds, one of the few openly gay black characters to feature so prominently on an HBO show. Many celebrated his work in the iconic “AIDS burger” scene:

While fans were most attached to his role on True Blood, Ellis was a man of many accomplishments. He graduated from Julliard and went on to play roles like Martin Luther King in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Bobby Byrd in Get On Up. He also starred as Shinwell Johnson in an 11-episode run on Elementary, and one of his most recent films, Little Boxes, is currently streaming on Netflix.

It’s always sad to lose a beloved actor, but to lose someone so young is doubly so. Rest in peace, Nelsan Ellis.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter; image via Shutterstock)

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