Nelsan Ellis, who played medium Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s vampire-themed fantasy series True Blood, died at the age of 39 following complications from heart failure, Variety reported.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO told the magazine in a statement. “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. Nelsan will be dearly missed by his fans and all of us at HBO.”
Octavia Spencer, who co-starred with Ellis on The Help, posted a message to Instagram saying, “Just got word that we lost @NelsanEllisOfficial. My heart breaks for his kids and family.”
Ellis had dozens of film and TV screen credits; in addition to True Blood and The Help, he was known for playing Martin Luther King Jr. in 2013 film The Butler, a role as Bobby Byrd in the 2014 James Brown biopic Get on Up and a recurring role on the CBS show Elementary.
“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me,” True Blood creator Alan Ball said in a statement, according to Variety. “Working with him was a privilege.”
Ellis had a son and seven siblings, Variety reported.