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Nelsan Ellis (1977 - 2017)

Getty / Mark Sullivan

Nelsan Ellis (1977 - 2017)

Nelsan Ellis, the actor who starred on “True Blood,” died Saturday, July 8, 2017, following complications with heart failure, according to multiple news sources. He was 39.

Ellis played short order cook/drug dealer Lafayette Reynolds on the vampire drama “True Blood” from 2008 to 2014. The role was expanded from the original source novels, “The Southern Vampire Mysteries,” where the character had been killed off early on. Ellis received acclaim for his performance, winning several awards, including the 2011 NAACP Image Award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series.

Series creator Alan Ball, who praised Ellis for the way he portrayed the character’s sexuality, said, “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”


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Ellis was born Nov. 30, 1977, in Harvey, Illinois. He graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School’s drama division in 2004. He had roles in the films “The Soloist” (2009), “The Butler” (2013), and “Get on Up” (2014). He was currently appearing on the Sherlock Holmes TV drama “Elementary” in the leading role of criminal informant Shinwell Johnson.

Ellis was preceded in death by his mother, Jackie. He is survived by his father, Tommie Lee Thomson, his son, Breon Ellis, and seven siblings.

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