‘True Blood’ Actor Nelsan Ellis Dead at 39

NEW YORK — Actor Nelsan Ellis, best known for his memorable portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood,” has died at the age of 39.

Ellis’ manager, Emily Gerson Saines, confirmed the actor’s death in an email Saturday. The Hollywood Reporter, which was first to report Ellis’ death, quoted her as saying the actor died from complications of heart failure.

The Illinois-born actor, who studied at Juilliard, played the role of Lafayette, a gay short order cook, on the HBO drama from 2008 to 2014, and more recently appeared in the CBS detective series “Elementary.” He also was a playwright and a stage director.

Ellis appeared as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” and as singer Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up.”

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He also appeared in “The Help,” and his castmate Octavia Spencer mourned his death on Instagram. “My heart breaks for his kids and family,” the actress wrote.