Nelsan Ellis, the actor who brought to life the flamboyant character of Lafayette Reynolds on HBO's True Blood, has died at the age of 39.
Ellis' manager, Emily Gerson Saines, confirmed the death, telling The Hollywood Reporter that he died "after complications with heart failure. He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed."
In a statement, HBO said, "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."
Ellis did not have a lead role in the series. But his portrayal of the gay short-order cook who deals in blood was so popular among fans that even though the character was killed off in the book version of the vampire drama, he was kept on for all seven seasons of the show, Rolling Stone reports.
And yet the Juilliard-trained Ellis initially struggled to bring to life the character of Reynolds, according to Vibe magazine.