On Saturday, July 8, actor Nelsan Ellis died of complications from heart failure at the age of 39. Ellis is best known for his groundbreaking turn as Lafayette, the gay short-order cook in a small Southern town, on HBO’s True Blood. In the books that the series was based on, the character was quickly killed off, but audiences loved Ellis’s take so much that he survived through all seven seasons.
In a 2014 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ellis talked about how he listened to Beyoncé’s “Partition” to get in the right mindset before giving a particularly powerful speech in Season 7.
While Ellis is best known for his role on True Blood, he also recently appeared in a season of CBS’s Elementary, as Shinwell Johnson. The show tweeted out its condolences upon hearing of his death.
Many of Ellis’s co-stars, including Stephen Moyer, Joe Manganiello, and Anna Paquin, also expressed sympathy, shock, and sadness at the loss.
“Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis. He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist. Watching him work was like watching someone channel a spirit. It was mesmerizing. RIP,” Manganiello posted on Instagram.
Rest in peace, Nelsan Ellis. You’ll be greatly missed.
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