Nelsan Ellis, the actor known for his portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood, has died at the age of 39.
He passed away of complications from heart failure, reports Variety. He is survived by his wife and son.
HBO released a statement paying tribute to Nelsan: “We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis. 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.”
Just got word that we lost @nelsanellisofficial. My heart breaks for his kids and family. #RIPNelsanEllis. #brillIantactor #trueblood #getonup #thesoloist #thehelp. The first time I met him was on the set of the soloist and we were at rehearsal with a lot of the homeless cast members, and Nelsan was playing our counselor. He walked in wearing a pair of fitted camo cargo pants, a pristine white tshirt, a beret, and a denim jacket. Needless to say he was gorgeous, sexy. But his talent had me speechless. We became instant friends after that. He was sooooo funny. I miss him. #nelsanellis
Octavia Spencer wrote on Instagram that her “heart breaks for his kids and family”
Anna Paquin called Nelsan’s passing “shocking and heartbreaking” in an Instagram post last night.
Joe Manganiello, who starred with Nelsan on True Blood, said: “Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis. He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist. RIP.”
As one of the few queer characters of colour featured on television, Lafayette was an important step forward for LGBT+ representation. The make-up clad, tough as nails cook/drug dealer Lafayette expanded the horizons of what being LGBT+ on television could look like.
Take a look at one of Lafayette’s best moments below: