US actor Nelsan Ellis, best known for True Blood, has died aged 39.
Reports claim he died from complications due to heart failure.
Ellis played gay cook Lafeyette Reynolds in the HBO vampire series from 2008 to 2014. During his run he was defiant, sexual and the show’s most flamboyant character. The LA Times notes he also brought pointed humour to Alan Ball’s drama, which many considered an analogy for the gay rights struggle.
In a statement, Ball called Ellis “a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”
HBO said in its own statement: “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.”
Co-star Anna Paquin tweeted: “It was an utter privilege to work with the phenomenally talented and deeply kind soul. @OfficialNelsan I’m devastated by his untimely death.”
Most recently, Ellis had joined the season five cast of Elementary. Other TV credits included The Inside, Veronica Mars, Warm Springs, Ru Paul’s Drag Race and Without a Trace.
Film credits included The Soloist, The Help, The Butler, Little Boxes and as Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Butler.