Nelsan Ellis was just 39-years-old when he died from complications of heart failure this week. The actor wasn’t known by all, but those who were familiar with Ellis were likely fans of the HBO series True Blood, which ran for seven seasons and told the story of supernatural happenings in Bon Temps, Louisiana, a town in the fictitious Renard Parish. In the TV series, and books that spawned it, the small rural town was overrun by vampires, witches, and werewolves. In the midst of it all, reports USA Today, fry cook and psychic medium Lafayette Reynolds, played by Nelsan Ellis, provided both humanity and comic relief.
While many characters on True Blood came and went, Nelsan Ellis was a constantly familiar face on the show. His character, Lafayette, was one of the most relatable and real among dozens, and fans of the series knew that they could count on Ellis’ authenticity and humor to bring together even the most fantastical of story lines.
The TV series True Blood was adapted from the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels written by American author Charlaine Harris. In the written series, Lafayette Reynolds died an early and somewhat forgettable death. In the TV show, however, Nelsan Ellis’ portrayal of the character provided job security as so many co-stars fell by the wayside.
I am so sad about the death of Nelsan Ellis, a great talent gone too soon. Such a shock. ????
— Charlaine Harris (@RealCharlaine) July 8, 2017
After news of Nelsan Ellis’ unexpected death broke on Saturday morning, Charlaine took to social media to share her condolences and express her shock.
Her sentiments were seconded by Alan Ball, who translated her best-selling novels to the small screen. In a statement, Ball praised Nelsan’s talent and called working with the unforgettable actor “a privilege.”
“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”
HBO also spoke out about the tragic death of Nelsan Ellis, an incomparable talent seemingly gone far too soon.
“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.”
On Saturday, Ellis’ True Blood co-stars blasted their tributes to the indescribable Lafayette all over social media, sharing their grief and disbelief with the world, as they struggled to come to terms with the loss of Nelsan Ellis. Included among Ellis’ mourners was series star Anna Paquin, who portrayed telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse.
— Anna Paquin (@AnnaPaquin) July 8, 2017
Stephen Moyer, Bill Compton on True Blood and real-life husband of TV love interest Anna Paquin (the pair met on the show and are now parents of twins), also shared his accolades and sympathy, calling Nelsan Ellis “remarkable.”
Nelsan Ellis was truly remarkable. A brilliant, charismatic, intelligent, soulful, wonderful dude. this is just completely tragic.
— Stephen Moyer (@smoyer) July 8, 2017
Sam Trammell, aka True Blood’s Sam Merlotte, also shared his condolences for the loss of Nelsan Ellis. In the TV series, Trammell played Ellis’ boss and good friend. In real life, Trammell honored Ellis’ humility, kindness, and talent.
I don't know if I've ever seen the level of humility and kindness that came with the Magnificent Talent that Nelsan Ellis had. Miss u friend
— Sam Trammell (@SamTrammell) July 8, 2017
Kristin Bauer van Straten, True Blood’s Pam, used her Instagram account to pay homage to Ellis, despite having once held him as a fictional hostage on the show.
Several other series regulars and guest-stars also turned to social media to memorialize Nelsan Ellis in the wake of the news of his untimely and tragic death.
— Kevin Alejandro (@kevinmalejandro) July 8, 2017
— Deborah Ann Woll (@DeborahAnnWoll) July 8, 2017
Unbelievably sad news. Nelsan was such a sweet, gentle soul with an enormous talent. He will be missed greatly RIP https://t.co/NDdoaeM6Pj
— MichaelRaymond-James (@MRaymondJames) July 8, 2017
Many fans of True Blood responded to the news of Nelsan Ellis’ death by vowing to binge watch reruns of the series on HBO.
I'm doing a True Blood marathon because I'm so sad about Nelsan Ellis
— TracyinAustralia (@Feministnerd) July 9, 2017
I never finished watching the series of True Blood. True Blood Marathon in the remembrance of Nelsan Ellis!.
— ♍DEEBOCK♿ (@DEEBOCK_DaCEO) July 9, 2017
Damn R.I.P Nelsan Ellis.????Gone way too soon. True blood marathon when i get off tonight.
— Honey Smuggler (@BreezyNoChill) July 8, 2017
While Nelsan Ellis was best known for his portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds, it was far from his only high-profile role. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Ellis was a cast member on CBS’Elementary, as well as Veronica Mars and Warm Springs. He appeared in the films The Help, The Butler, and The Soloist. Ellis was also a graduate of Juilliard.
In addition to being survived by his almost innumerable co-stars, Nelsan Ellis is survived by seven siblings and young son, Breon.
[Featured Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]