In 2008, an actor named Nelsan Ellis began his journey on the HBO hit True Blood as the fierce and fabulous Lafayette Reynolds, a short order cook in the fictional town of Bon Temps, whose sass and flair for life allowed the no-nonsense-having character to survive seven seasons of dealing and living among the “undead,” and other supernatural creatures to ultimately, find peace and love in the end with another man whose life had, ironically, ended somewhere in the late 1970’s.
Sadly, on Saturday, July 8, news of the real-life counterpart of Lafayette noted that the actor had died at the age of 39 in the year 2017 from reported heart failure, according to TV Line.
Ellis’ longtime manager, Emily Gerson Saines, first confirmed news of Nelsan’s untimely passing to the Hollywood Reporter early Saturday afternoon.
“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” Saines said in a public statement regarding Ellis’ death.
“He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
Ellis was most recognized by television viewers as Lafayette Reynolds, the openly gay cousin of main character Sookie Stackhouse’s (Anna Paquin) best friend, the equally-headstrong Tara Thornton, played by Rutina Wesley, on HBO’s True Blood for all seven seasons, starting in September of 2008.
After the supernatural drama’s end, Ellis, an alum of Julliard who garnered roles on Veronica Mars and Without A Trace on CBS before his talents allowed him to shine on True Blood as Lafayette, gained further success as Shinwell Johnson, a former drug addict on the road to redemption who assists a modern-day pairing of Sherlock Holmes and a now-female Dr. Watson (Charlie’s Angels‘ Lucy Liu) on another CBS drama, Elementary, until last May, when the character was killed off the series, as a separate TV Line article notes.
Of Ellis’ seminal role as Lafayette on True Blood, the actor once warmly expressed to the Alabama Local News the importance of maintaining the integrity of the LGBTQ community with his portrayal of the occasionally campy character, without making his fictional counterpart come off as being too stereotypical.
— TVLine.com (@TVLine) July 8, 2017
“You have to be open [with someone like Lafayette], but more importantly, you make a statement when you do [play someone like him],” Ellis said to the publication prior to the series finale of True Blood, which aired in 2014.
“I [once] did a documentary called Damn Wonderful about gay suicide, and you make a statement, a big statement, when you go, ‘I don’t want to play this part because it’s gay.’ If you have a child, if you have a son, and he comes out as gay, what are you going to do? If you have a daughter who comes out gay? You just made a statement, and it has ripple effects.”
Other details past Nelsan Ellis now being dead have yet to be made publicly.
[Featured Image by HBO]