The sassy, comedic, and all around heart and soul of the hit TV series True Blood, Nelsan Ellis, is dead at the young age of 39.
Details of Ellis’ passing are scarce, but the Hollywood Reporter reports that the actor’s manager, Emily Gerson Saines, says Ellis “passed away after complications with heart failure.”
Fans of True Blood will remember Ellis’ portrayal of the character Lafayette Reynolds, who traveled between the worlds of humans of vampires with equal grace, as one of the best parts of the series.
Although the show was known for its campiness, Lafayette was a character who delivered laughs as a drug dealer and cook, but also struggled with addiction (to vampire blood), and always pushed back in elegant yet tough fashion against conservative southern (where the story was set) attitudes toward the LGBTQ community.
Ellis’ acting chops were no surprise, as he was trained at the Juilliard School in New York. Nevertheless, his ability to take a supporting role in what was mostly a vampire soap opera, transcending the format by turning in deep and stirring performances, will forever serve as a testament to his unique acting talent.
In addition to True Blood, Ellis also appeared in The Help, Lee Daniels’ The Butler (as Martin Luther King Jr.), and recently appeared as a regular in the CBS series, Elementary.
“He was a great talent,” said Saines. “And his words and presence will be forever missed.”