Nelsan Ellis Dead at 39 {UPDATED}

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With heavy hearts we share the news that talented, sweet, gorgeous Nelsan Ellis has died. His manager, Emily Gerson Saines, told The Hollywood Reporter that he died from complications of heart failure. The full statement reads as follows:

“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure. He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”

UPDATED 07.10.17: Nelsan’s family decided to release a statement about Nelsan’s cause of death to The Hollywood Reporter in an effort to help others who may be struggling with the same addictions that cut his life short. Here’s the full statement from his agent:

Nelsan’s father has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan’s heart failure. Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years. After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own. According to his father, during his withdrawal from alcohol he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear sweet heart raced out of control.

On the morning of Saturday July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul. He was a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, and a great friend to those that were lucky enough to know him. Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.

On Saturday, after learning of Nelsan’s death, Alan Ball, True Blood creator, released the following statement: “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”

And from HBO: “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.”

We remember Nelsan as Lafayette, the cook at Merlotte’s who was supposed to be the victim of a serial murderer at the end of season 1. But Nelsan’s brilliant portrayal of the character and instant connection with the fandom convinced Alan Ball to spare Lafayette. He was a series regular for all seven seasons.

One of our very first interviews here at was with the soft-spoken actor. It was between seasons 1 and 2, when we still didn’t know who was in the car in the final scene of season 1. You can read a transcript of that interview here.

Nelsan Ellis was brilliant, sweet, kind, clever, and so talented. We will miss him.

Fan of the Southern Vampire Mysteries since 2001, and co-admin of since 2008. Team Sookie!


  1. Irish

    July 8, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    He was my favorite actor in the series. May he find peace with his creator.

  2. dee

    July 8, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    So very sorry to hear about this tragic and untimely loss. He was a great actor and so very much a contribution to the True Blood series. RIP!

  3. Kim-Alice Jinea

    July 9, 2017 at 4:59 am

    A brilliant actor, he will be missed by loved ones and his fans. Rip Nelsan

  4. Cathy Andrews

    July 9, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Lafayette was truly a big part of TrueBlood and one of my fave characters. I’ve seen a few of Nelsan’s movies too. What an amazing gifted and talented actor!!! He will be greatly missed. RIP LAFAYETTE WE TRUE BLOOD FANS LOVE YOU<3<3

  5. Andrea A Harter

    July 9, 2017 at 10:59 am

    My heart is greatly broken to hear of the passing of this talented man. He brought so much life to Lafayette, he was always there with a witty comment or something that most southern bells would vouch to hear. Watching True Blood will never be the same now. RIP with all the other incredibly talented people to have passed I know they will welcome you with open arms.

    • Andrea A Harter

      July 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

      He brought so much life to Lafayette, he was always there with a witty comment or something that most southern bells would blush to hear

  6. Dawn

    July 10, 2017 at 7:35 am


  7. Pamela Phillips

    July 11, 2017 at 9:47 am

    He was one of my favorite on True Blood I can sat down and have popcorn and a turn on TV and watch True Blood for hours. R.I.P. Lafayette u will be truly missed by ur fans

  8. Rina

    July 20, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I just accidentally found out about Nelsan’s death from an article in TV Guide. I’m just devastated. So young. So talented. Such a huge loss to his family and to the world. Wherever you are now, Nelsan, I hope you are laughing. All my love to you, and condolences to your family.