A sin­gu­lar tal­ent

Nel­san El­lis, who played Lafayette Reynolds on True Blood, is dead at 39.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Women’s World - By JES­SICA GELT

Nel­san El­lis (1977-2017)

NEL­SAN El­lis, the ac­tor best known for his por­trayal of Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood, has died at 39. The re­ported cause was com­pli­ca­tions due to heart fail­ure.

El­lis burst into pop­u­lar con­scious­ness with the show’s de­but in 2008. In­tro­duced al­most im­me­di­ately, Lafayette was a flam­boy­ant and out­spo­ken short-or­der cook at Mer­lotte’s Bar and Grill in the fic­tional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. The char­ac­ter, who was gay, brought pointed hu­mour to Alan Ball’s ac­claimed vam­pire drama, which many con­sid­ered an anal­ogy for the gay rights strug­gle.

Lafayette and El­lis be­came in­stant fan favourites. Lafayette was a key char­ac­ter through the sev­enth and fi­nal sea­son of the se­ries, which was based on nov­els by Char­laine Har­ris.

As news of El­lis’ death quickly spread, a scene in which Lafayette marches out from be­hind the grid­dle to con­front a trio of ho­mo­pho­bic din­ers was widely cir­cu­lated on Twit­ter. In a state­ment, Ball called El­lis “a sin­gu­lar tal­ent whose cre­ativ­ity never ceased to amaze me. Work­ing with him was a priv­i­lege.”

HBO echoed Ball’s sen­ti­ments in its own state­ment: “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.”

True Blood co-star Anna Paquin tweeted: “It was an ut­ter priv­i­lege to work with the phe­nom­e­nally tal­ented and deeply kind soul. @Of­fi­cialNel­san I’m dev­as­tated by his un­timely death.”

Most re­cently, El­lis had joined the Sea­son Five cast of CBS’ El­e­men­tary, play­ing Shin­well John­son, a for­mer drug dealer (and for­mer pa­tient of Lucy Liu’s Wat­son) try­ing to find redemp­tion.

El­lis was born in 1977 in Har­vey, Illi­nois, to a sin­gle mother. He moved to a poor sub­urb of Birm­ing­ham, Alabama, where he was raised by his grand­mother. As a teenager, he moved back to Illi­nois to live with his ma­ter­nal aunt and at­tend Thorn­ridge High School, where he dis­cov­ered his love of act­ing.

Af­ter a brief stint in the United States Marines, El­lis en­rolled at Illi­nois State Univer­sity be­fore be­ing ac­cepted, at age 21, to the Juil­liard School of drama. He grad­u­ated with a bach­e­lor of fine arts de­gree in 2004.

While at Juil­liard, El­lis wrote a semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal play, Ugly, which was per­formed at the school and earned him a Martin E. Se­gal Award from Lin­coln Cen­ter, which pro­vides fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and recog­ni­tion to promis­ing young artistes.

El­lis ap­peared on the big screen in 2009 in The Soloist along­side Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx, and in the Academy Award­win­ning film The Help in 2011. He also played the Rev Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniels’ The But­ler in 2013.

Oc­tavia Spencer, who co-starred in The Help, re­mem­bered El­lis in a tweet: “Just got word that we lost @Of­fi­cialNel­san. My heart breaks for his kids and fam­ily .... ”

El­lis’ TV cred­its in­clude the Fox se­ries The In­side, UPN’s Veron­ica Mars and the HBO film Warm Springs with Ken­neth Branagh, Cyn­thia Nixon and Kathy Bates.

El­lis is sur­vived by seven sib­lings as well as his son, Breon. – Los Angeles Times/ Tribune News Ser­vice

Photo: AP

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