Co-Stars Reflect On TRUE BLOOD Star Nelsan Ellis’ Life And Career

TRUE BLOOD star passes away, his co-stars express sadness and share memories of the actor.


Nelsan Ellis was well recognized for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on the show True Blood. Since its original premiere on HBO in September 2008, Ellis has won awards for his time on the television show. His first came in 2008 when he received the Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. In 2009, Ellis was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Scream Award. That same year, Ellis, alongside co-stars such as Anna Paquin and Anna Camp, won the Best Television Ensemble Satellite Award. Elias and his co-stars were then recognized the next year at the Screen Actors Guild Award with a nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. He followed up the next two years (2011 and 2012) with Image Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.


Suffice it to say, the actor was well recognized for his work on the TV series. Many enjoyed his work outside of the television series and gave him recognition for it such as being nominated for a Black Reel Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture award for his role in Get on Up. Yet, tragedy struck on July 8 when the actor passed away at age 39. The initial reason cited for his death was heart failure. However, there was much more to his death than meets the eye, as his manager, Emily Gerson Saines elaborated on in her statement to the press.

“Nelsan’s father has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan’s heart failure,” Saines stated. “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.” For the actor, Saines said this not an easy thing for him to deal with.

“Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus reluctant to talk about it during his life,” Saines said. “His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.” It sounds as if Ellis could have used help from Texas detox centers. Some time spent in rehab might have done him some good as other actors have dealt with throughout their lives. His co-stars, too, were very upset over his death. Paquin was not quiet about her sadness at all.

“It was an utter privilege to work with the phenomenally talented and deeply kind soul .@OfficialNelsan I’m devastated by his untimely death,” Paquin said on Twitter. His other co-star Carrie Preston echoed Paquin’s sentiments. “Dearest #NelsanEllis , may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, you phenomenally talented genius….” Preston stated on Twitter. Camp also took the news pretty hard.

“My heart is broken today over the loss of @OfficialNelsan I was in complete awe of your talent and so honored to have known your kindness,” Camp expressed via her Twitter account. One of his costars from The Soloist, Octavia Spencer shared a memory on Instagram she had of him.

“The first time I met him was on the set of The Soloist and we were at rehearsal with a lot of the homeless cast members, and Nelsan was playing our counselor,” Spencer said. “He walked in wearing a pair of fitted camo cargo pants, a pristine white tshirt, a beret, and a denim jacket. Needless to say he was gorgeous, sexy. But his talent had me speechless. We became instant friends after that. He was sooooo funny. I miss him. #nelsanellis.” HBO themselves expressed their sadness at the loss of one of their biggest stars.

“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” the television network said. “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.” It’s tragic news all around since the star’s death will be felt by everyone who knew him and saw him play the many different characters he did. It makes one wonder if time spent, perhaps, at Texas detox centers could have made a difference in the actor’s life. But, the best way to remember Ellis might be as Joe Manganiello remembers him.

“He was a wonderful person, a pioneer and a one of a kind artist,” Manganiello said on Twitter.