Actor Nelsan Ellis, known for his role in the HBO vampire series True Blood, died on Saturday at 39 after complications with heart failure stemming from alcohol withdrawal.
At the time of his death, Ellis’ manager Emily Gerson Saines said the actor died due to complications with heart failure, but further details of the actor’s passing were scarce. But on Monday, Ellis’ family released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter with more information about his death, including the actor’s struggle with alcohol and drug addiction.
“Nelsan’s father has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan’s heart failure. Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years,” Ellis’ family told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement.
In the statement, Ellis’ family acknowledged that the star didn’t talk about his addiction publicly, and hoped that by speaking about the circumstances of the actor’s passing, they would be able to help others also suffering from addiction.
“Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others,” the family said.
The family also shared details about Ellis withdrawing from alcohol on his own after many stints in rehab. His father said his withdrawal led to a blood infection, kidney shutdown, swollen liver, low blood pressure, and ultimately, heart failure.
After four days in Woodhull Hospital in New York City, he died Saturday, the family said.
He is survived by his grandmother, father, siblings and young son, Breon Ellis. His family called him a “gentle, generous and kind soul.”