True Blood Star Nelsan Ellis Dead at 39

True Blood star Nelsan Ellis, who played Lafayette on the HBO series, has died. He was 39.

The actor passed away from complications due to heart failure, his manager, Emily Gerson Saines, told The Hollywood Reporter. "He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed," she said in a statement.

Ellis played Lafayette Reynolds, a short order cook at the central location of Merlotte's, on True Blood for its entire seven-season run. The character is killed off early in the book series but lived on the show due to his popularity.

"We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis," HBO said in a statement. "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."

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True Blood star Anna Paquin tweeted Saturday that she was "devastated" by the actor's death and called it an "utter privilege" to work with Ellis.

Born in Harvey, Ill., Ellis briefly joined the Marines before attending Juilliard, where he earned a BFA in 2004.

His other credits include The Soloist, The Help, Lee Daniels' The Butler, in which he played Martin Luther King Jr., and Get On Up, in which he portrayed R&B singer Bobby Byrd. He joined Elementary last year as Shinwell Johnson.

Ellis' True Blood co-stars and Octavia Spencer, who starred with him in Get On Up and The Help, remembered him on social media Saturday.

















This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.