It was reported today that actor, playwright, and director Nelsan Ellis has died from heart failure at the age of 39. Ellis was best known for his portrayal as Lafayette Reynolds, a sassy and loyal short order cook turned medium on the HBO series, True Blood. Ellis also starred in Lee Daniels’ the Butler as the iconic Martin Luther King Jr. and Get on Up as James Brown’s long time friend, Bobby Byrd.
Ellis was born in Harvey, Illinois where he lived with his siblings and mother. He moved to Alabama to live with his grandmother and then moved back to Illinois at age 15. He attended Illinois State University and then was accepted into Juilliard where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts and met his True Blood colleague, Rutina Wesley. Before his death, Ellis starred in the film Little Boxes which is currently on Netflix and he can also be seen in the upcoming drama film, True to the Game. According to the Hollywood Reporter, he is survived by his grandmother, Alex Brown, his father, Tommie Lee Thompson, his son, Breon Ellis, and seven siblings and his aunt. He was a standout performer and fan favorite on True Blood and an amazing actor with diverse range; his calm and kind soul will be sadly missed.