Widely known for his groundbreaking portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds in HBO's True Blood, the incredibly talented Nelsan Ellis passed away at the age of 39. Ellis' manager confirmed the tragic news to The Hollywood Reporter earlier on Saturday, July 8. "Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure," his manager told THR. "He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed."
Ellis was especially beloved by fans and members of the LGBTQ community for his performance in True Blood. His character, Lafayette, had a well-rounded story that's so rare in television. Ellis was so spectacular in the show that his character avoided dying off, as Lafayette does in the books True Blood was based off. In addition to True Blood, Ellis also appeared in a number of shows and movies like Elementary, The Socialist, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Secretariat, The Butler, and Veronica Mars.
"We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis," HBO said in a statement to THR. "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."
A number of celebrities, including Ellis' former co-stars, have shared messages of condolences on social media.
1. Octavia Spencer
"My heart breaks for his kids and family," Spencer tweeted. On Instagram, she used the hashtag #brilliantactor. She and Ellis starred in The Help.
2. Tika Sumpter
"Heartbroken," Sumpter shared with her followers, "Such a beautiful human being."
3. Steve Kazee
"This world makes no sense to me," Kazee — who appeared alongside Ellis in an episode of Elementary — said in a message posted to Twitter, "No sense at all."
4. Joe Manganiello
"Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis," Manganiello said on Twitter. "He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist." Manganiello co-starred alongside Ellis in True Blood.
5. Michael Raymond-James
Raymond-James, who also appeared in True Blood, shared a message that said, "Unbelievably sad news. Nelsan was such a sweet, gentle soul with an enormous talent. He will be missed greatly."
6. Sam Trammell
"I don't know if I've ever seen the level of humility and kindness that came with the Magnificent Talent that Nelsan Ellis had," Trammell, who played Sam Merlotte in True Blood, tweeted.
7. Riz Ahmed
"Gutted to hear of Nelsaan Ellis' untimely death," Ahmed — who worked alongside Ellis in The Reluctant Fundamentalist shared. "A shining talent and soul."
8. Robert Hewitt Wolfe
"Nelsan Ellis was a kind soul and a tremendous talent," Elementary writer and producer Wolfe tweeted. "What a terrible loss. Heartbreaking."
9. Gabby Sidibe
Heartbroken over the passing of Nelsan Ellis, Sidibe shared with her followers. "He was always so sweet to me and so entertaining to watch in screen."
10. Anna Camp
"My heart is broken today," Camp tweeted. "I was in complete awe of your talent and so honored to have known your kindness." Although she's better known for Pitch Perfect, Camp also appeared in True Blood with Ellis.
11. Stephen Moyer
Moyer, a fellow True Blood actor, posted a message saying, "Nelsan Ellis was truly remarkable. A brilliant, charismatic, intelligent, soulful, wonderful dude."
Ellis’ legacy will live on, but he will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.