True Blood star Nelsan El­lis dies of heart prob­lems at 39

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

NEW YORK — Ac­tor Nelsan El­lis, best known for his mem­o­rable por­trayal of Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood, has died at the age of 39.

El­lis’ man­ager, Emily Ger­son Saines, con­firmed the ac­tor’s death in an email on Satur­day. The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, which was first to re­port El­lis’ death, quoted her as say­ing the ac­tor died from com­pli­ca­tions of heart fail­ure.

The Illi­nois-born ac­tor, who stud­ied at Juil­liard, played the role of Lafayette, a gay short or­der cook, on the HBO drama from 2008 to 2014, and more re­cently ap­peared in the CBS de­tec­tive series El­e­men­tary.

He also was a play­wright and a stage di­rec­tor.

El­lis ap­peared as Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniels’ The But­ler, and as singer Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic Get On Up.

He also ap­peared in The Help, and his cast­mate Oc­tavia Spencer mourned his death on In­sta­gram. “My heart breaks for his kids and fam­ily,” the ac­tress wrote.

On Twit­ter, some fans posted one of his more fa­mous scenes as Lafayette, where the char­ac­ter marches out of the kitchen to con­front some big­oted din­ers.

HBO re­leased a state­ment say­ing the net­work was “ex­tremely sad­dened” by El­lis’ death.

“Nelsan was a long­time mem­ber of the HBO fam­ily whose ground­break­ing por­trayal of Lafayette will be re­mem­bered fondly within the over­all legacy of True Blood,” the state­ment read. “Nelsan will be dearly missed by his fans and all of us at HBO.”

True Blood cre­ator Alan Ball called El­lis “a sin­gu­lar tal­ent whose cre­ativ­ity never ceased to amaze me. Work­ing with him was a priv­i­lege”.

In a 2012 TV in­ter­view in Chicago, El­lis re­called that it took four au­di­tions for him to nail the role of Lafayette. At first, he said, he was play­ing the role as a car­i­ca­ture, and was told to “go back to the draw­ing board and fig­ure it out”.

He then be­gan to chan­nel his mother. “Once I started to act like my Mama, my fourth au­di­tion, I got the part,” he said.

Born in Har­vey, Illi­nois, El­lis at­tended Thorn­ridge High School, where he cred­ited teach­ers with in­still­ing the craft of the­ater in him. He later at­tended Juil­liard in New York City.

PRO­VIDED BY AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The photo claims to show avi­a­tor Amelia Earhart, seated third from right, gaz­ing at what may be her crip­pled air­craft loaded on a barge.

Nelsan El­lis, who played Lafayette Reynolds

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