‘True Blood’ Star Nelsan Ellis Dies At 39

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Actor Nelsan Ellis, famous for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood”, has died. He was only 39.

“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” Ellis’ manager Emily Gerson Saines said. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”

On True Blood, Lafayette was a short order cook at Merlotte’s. In the books, he was killed off, but because Ellis made him such an enjoyable character, he survived in the series. In Get On Up, the James Brown biopic, Ellis played musician Bobby Byrd who was extremely influential in developing Brown into the superstar he became.

(Photo credit: Twitter.com)

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

Heart failure can occur if the heart cannot pump (systolic) or fill (diastolic) adequately. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs, and rapid heartbeat.

African Americans are at a much higher risk for heart failure (HF) in part because high blood pressure (BP) and diabetes are more common in African Americans than in other ethnic groups. Both of these conditions affect the way your heart works and how blood flows in your body. Some scientists suspect that low levels of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, may also play a role.


Born in Harvey, Ill. in 1977, Ellis and his siblings were moved to Alabama to live with their aunt before Ellis decided to move back to Chicago at age 15. At 17, he joined the Marines, but quit shortly after. After studying at Illinois State University, Ellis went on to get his B.F.A. from Juilliard, where he just so happened to be a class above his eventual “True Blood” costar, Rutina Wesley.