Actor Nelsan Ellis, who played short order cook Lafayette Reynolds on True Blood, died on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Los Angeles. He died of complications from heart failure at 39 years old.
From 2008 to 2014 Ellis starred in 80 episodes of True Blood over 7 seasons. He won two Satellite Awards, an Emmy for best supporting dramatic actor, and a NewNowNext Award for actor on the brink of fame.
“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.”
Ellis was born in Harvey, Illinois, then he and his siblings moved to Alabama to live with an aunt before he relocated in Chicago. He studied at Illinois State University then got a BFA from Juilliard.
Before True Blood, his film and TV career began in 2002 in the short Lost. He was also in several episodes of The Inside in 2005-2006, then was in The Express, The Soloist, Secretariat, The Help, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Gods Behaving Badly, was in Elementary in 2016-2017, and his final project was True to the Game.