'True Blood' star Nelsan Ellis dies at 39

Nelsan Ellis, the actor who starred in HBO's True Blood as Lafayette Reynolds, has died, his manager Emily Gerson Saines, told The Hollywood Reporter.

He was 39.

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

On True Blood, Lafayette was a short order cook at Merlotte's. In the books, he was killed off, but because Ellis made him such an enjoyable character, he survived in the series.

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Actor Nelsan Ellis
Actor Nelsan Ellis attends the premiere of 'Get on Up' in New York July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
NEW YORK - JULY 25: 'Folie a Deux' -- When a serial bomber becomes active again after being dormant for six years, Watson seeks help from Shinwell Johnson (Nelsan Ellis), a former patient whose life she saved when she was a surgeon. Also, Holmes senses Watson is unhappy and questions whether she is still fulfilled by her detective career, on the fifth season premiere of ELEMENTARY, Sunday, Oct. 2 (10:00-11:00, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network. Pictured Nelsan Ellis as Shinwell Johnson (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: Actor Nelsan Ellis attends the 'Little Boxes' New York Screening at Village East Cinema on April 14, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26: Actor Nelsan Ellis attends HBO's 'True Blood' panel during Comic-Con International 2014 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 15:( EDITORS NOTE; image has been converted to black and white) Nelsan Ellis attends 'Little Boxes' Premiere during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas on April 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26: in this handout photo provided by Warner Bros, Nelsan Ellis of 'True Blood' attends Comic-Con International 2014 on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Chris Frawley/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 15: Nelsan Ellis and Armani Jackson attend 'Little Boxes' Premiere during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas on April 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26: (L-R) Kristan Bauer van Straten, Anna Camp, Carrie Preston, Jess Cagle, Nathan Parsons and Nelsan Ellis pose with radio host Tim Stack after being interviewed on SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio channel from Comic-Con 2014 at The Hard Rock Hotel on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images for Sirius XM)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Actor Nelsan Ellis attends the 'Get On Up' premiere at The Apollo Theater on July 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26: Actors Deborah Ann Woll (L) and Nelsan Ellis attend HBO's 'True Blood' panel during Comic-Con International 2014 at San Diego Convention Center on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Nelsan Ellis at the 'Get On Up' Press Conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on July 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 22: (L-R) Actor Nelsan Ellis, actress Tika Sumpter, director Tate Taylor and actor Chadwick Boseman pose for a portrait at the 2014 American Black Film Festival at the Metropolitan Pavillion on June 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 17: (L-R) Actress Octavia Spencer, producer Brian Grazer, singer/producer Mick Jagger, director Tate Taylor, NY Program Director for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Patrick Harrison, actor Chadwick Boseman, producer Victoria Pearman, actor Nelsan Ellis, and actor Dan Aykroyd attend a special screening of 'Get On Up' hosted by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences at The Academy Theatre at Lighthouse International on July 17, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 20: In this handout photo provided by WBTV, 'True Blood' star Nelsan Ellis and 'Edge Of Tomorrow' star Emily Blunt and director Doug Liman attend the Warner Bros. booth during Comic-Con on July 20, 2013 in San Diego, California.(Photo by Wil Corpus/WBTV via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 05: Actor Nelsan Ellis attends Lee Daniels' 'The Butler' New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on August 5, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 11: Actor Nelsan Ellis (L) and guest arrive at HBO's 'True Blood' season 6 premiere at ArcLight Cinemas Cinerama Dome on June 11, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)
CULVER CITY, CA - DECEMBER 05: (L-R) Nelsan Ellis and Michelle Forbes attend the Raising The Bar To End Parkinson's on December 5, 2012 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 30: Actor Nelsan Ellis attends HBO's 'True Blood' Season 5 Los Angeles premiere at ArcLight Cinemas Cinerama Dome on May 30, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 22: (L-R) Kristin Bauer and Nelsan Ellis attend HBO's 'True Blood' Autograph Signing At Comic-Con 2011 on July 22, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
Nelsan Ellis presents at the 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards at San Francisco Marriott Marquis on May 14, 2011 in San Francisco, California.
Actor Nelsan Ellis attends the Access Hollywood 'Stuff You Must...' Lounge produced by On 3 Productions at the Sofitel Hotel on January 15, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
SAN DIEGO - JULY 23: Nelsan Ellis, Sam Trammell and Rutina Wesley at San Diego Convention Center on July 23, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by FilmMagic Inc/FilmMagic)
(L-R) Sam Trammell and Nelsan Ellis attend the 'True Blood' Crew Appreciation Party Hosted By Nelsan Ellis at The Carlyle Residences on July 3, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD - JUNE 08: Actor Nelsan Ellis arrives at the premiere of HBO's 'True Blood' Season 3 at The Cinerama Dome on June 8, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
METAIRIE, LA - MARCH 20: New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley actor Nelsan Ellis pose at the Vampire Baseball game at Zephyr Field on March 20, 2010 in Metairie, Louisiana. (Photo by Skip Bolen/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 24: Nelsan Ellis at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California on July 24, 2009. (Photo by Munawar Hosain/Fotos International/Getty Images) Reproduction by American tabloids is absolutely forbidden.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actors Nelsan Ellis (L) and Lee Pace pose during the HBO Luxury Lounge in honor of the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards featuring the In Style diamond suite, held at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 20, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for mediaplacement)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: (L-R) Actors Rutina Wesley, Stephen Moyer, Anna Paquin, Sam Trammell and Nelsan Ellis arrive at the official HBO after party for the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at Circa 55 Restaurant, Poolside at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
HBO's Richard Plepler, executive producer Alan Ball, HBO's Sue Naegle, actress Rutina Wesley, actor Stephen Moyer, actress Anna Paquin, actor Ryan Kwanten, actor Nelsan Ellis, HBO's Michael Lombardo, and actor Sam Trammell attend the HBO Premiere of 'True Blood' at Paramount Studios on June 9, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Andrew Davoli, Cynthia Nixon, Nelsan Ellis, Felicia Day and Marshall Hamilton (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
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"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."

True Blood creator, Alan Ball said: "Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege."

Ellis was born in Harvey, Ill. He attended Thorn Ridge High School in Dolton, Illinois. He later attended Oxford University and Columbia College in Chicago, before graduating from the famed Juilliard School.

Ellis is survived by his grandmother (Alex Brown), his father (Tommie Lee Thompson) and his son (Breon Ellis). He is also survived by his siblings - Lakeeia Thomson (sister), Tommie Lee Thompson (brother), Babon Ellis (brother), Maurice Turne (brother), Tianna Thompson (sister), Shaentika Beard (sister), Yvonne Ellis (sister) and Tartheaia Thompson (aunt).

His mother, Jackie Ellis, predeceased him in death.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Jenesse Center or The Restoration Ministries Church of God and Christ.

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