“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure. He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
HBO said in 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.”
True Blood creator and executive producer Alan Ball also said in a statement:
“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”
Nelsan Ellis was born in Harvey, Ill. in 1977. After studying at Illinois State University, Ellis went on to get his B.F.A. from Juilliard. He said of his studies to Backstage in 2009:
“The studies were so intense and the institution is so white, and I’m a black man from the South with a very specific vernacular and palate. I felt like an alien, and I struggled the first couple of years. But it transformed who I am as an actor and a person.
Ellis’ credits include single season on Fox’s The Inside and an episode of Veronica Mars before being cast as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood.
Ellis said to the Philadelphia Inquirer about the role:
“I have more makeup on than any of the females in the (True Blood) cast. Once they get me with the fake eyelashes and the eye makeup, I listen to some Rihanna and I’m there.”
Ellis received a Satellite Award, a NewNowNext Award, an Ewwy Award, a Scream Award and an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series” for True Blood.
His post True Blood credits include Get On Up, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Little Boxes, The Butler, and The Help. He recently appeared on CBS’ Elementary.
Ellis is survived by his grandmother (Alex Brown), his father (Tommie Lee Thompson) and his son (Breon Ellis). He is also survived by his siblings – Lakeeia Thomson (sister), Tommie Lee Thompson (brother), Babon Ellis (brother), Maurice Turne (brother), Tianna Thompson (sister), Shaentika Beard (sister), Yvonne Ellis (sister) and Tartheaia Thompson (aunt).
Ellis was only 39.