On Saturday, the world lost a brilliant star. Nelsan Ellis was only 39 years old when he passed away, shocking friends and fans alike. Best known for his role as Lafeyette on HBO’s True Blood, he became a series regular on the show due to his popularity. In fact, it is impossible for a fan to think of True Blood without thinking of the ever effervescent Lafayette Reynolds who was the heart of the series. The actor also became a regular on Elementary, appeared in numerous films, and left behind a continuing rising career.

According to THR, Ellis had died due to heart failure caused by addiction to drugs and alcohol. In a statement released by the family, they said he was trying to overcome his addiction when his death occured.

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. After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own. According to his father, during his withdrawal from alcohol he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear sweet heart raced out of control.

On the morning of Saturday July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul. He was a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, and a great friend to those that were lucky enough to know him. 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.

Since the announcement of his death, his True Blood co-stars, other colleagues and fans have be reminiscing and grieving. Sharing photos, memories or just praising him as a person – it’s incredibly apparent that he was a joy to work with and is truly missed. Here are some reactions by castmates, shows and colleagues. We send our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.

 

One of the first places we shot on the pilot of True Blood was Sam Merlotte’s Bar. The kitchen Suzuki Ingerslev built in Merlotte’s had a walk in freezer & working gas burners. It remained my favourite set throughout all 7 seasons – when shooting in Louisiana many months later she took us to the actual bar she had used as inspiration. It was almost as amazing as our Merlotte’s, but not quite – They didn’t have a Lafayette. In the scene that was being shot that day, Lafayette, a male cross-dressing short order cook in the show, was expounding on his theory of men’s fear of the female anatomy.. specifically, the vagina. ‘I know every man whether straight, gay or George MotherFuckin’ Bush is afraid of the pussy..’ I’m not sure I have ever seen, before or since, people crowd around a monitor at video village with their hands clapped to their mouths from shock, sheer laughter and wonder as the actor playing Lafayette jiggled and shook and humped the butchers block to get his point across. it was completely original, funny, sardonic, risqué and brilliant. That was Nelsan Ellis. All of the above. I turned to Alan Ball when the scene was finished and whispered… ‘you can’t kill him!’ (Lafayette’s death at the of the first book is the cliffhanger that leads to Book 2… ) Nelsan Ellis was the only actor in the 7 years of True Blood whom Alan allowed to improvise. Actually, I’m going to take that back. It wasn’t that Alan allowed him to do it, it was more that when Nelsan inhabited the world of Lafayette, he quite literally COULDN’T STOP himself. It was like he was possessed. In actuality Nelsan was quiet, smart, thoughtful, warm and kind. A published playwright himself. I think it would be fair to say that he taught all of us that intent and courage and fearlessness and freedom are the aspects of playing make-believe that spark the corners of the room where the dark is most impenetrable; to shine a light on those corners within ourselves is the very reason we go back time and again to Movies, TV shows and Theatre. To see that spark ignited. Nelsan had that electricity in an abundance I have rarely seen. I can’t believe he’s gone. #nelsanellis

A post shared by Steve Moyer (@stephenmoyer) on

 

 

Celebrating my brother @NelsanEllisOfficial. 4Eva linked like Bobby Byrd and JB. We love u. We miss u. RIP.

A post shared by Chadwick Boseman (@chadwickboseman) on

Erin Lynch