Actor Nelsan Ellis was best known for playing the vivacious short-order cook Lafayette on HBO’s hit series “True Blood.”
His humorous portrayal of the popular character made him a fan favorite on the series, which ran seven seasons. But sadly, his life was cut short on Saturday.
According to earlier reports, the actor passed away at the age of 39 from heart failure. His manager, Emily Gerson Saine, said:
“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure. He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
Initially, it was unclear what exactly caused Ellis’ heart failure — but now his manager is speaking out once again.Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Saine released a statement on behalf of Ellis’s family to The Hollywood Reporter on Monday that is shedding some light on this heartbreaking loss.
According to the statement, Ellis died from complications stemming from alcohol withdrawal symptoms after a long battle with substance addiction. The statement reads:
Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images
“Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years. After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own.
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.”
The beloved actor spent several days in the hospital before tragically losing his life:
“On the morning of Saturday July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul.
He was a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, and a great friend to those that were lucky enough to know him. Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life.”
His family now hopes that his loss will help inspire others to get help:
“His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”
News of the actor’s premature passing devastated his co-stars. Many took to social media to share fond memories of the star and express their sympathies.
The news of Ellis’s alcoholism-related death also seems to have opened up a conversation about substance abuse and the stigma associated with asking for help. Many Twitter users defended the actor, who hid his struggle from the public eye:
there are soo soo many stars who are struggling and then end up dying way before their time. The stigmas need to end.
— Elektra ? (@TeenSuccubus) July 10, 2017
Sadly I expected it to be addiction related and that changes nothing. That does not mean that he wasn't a good person.
— ZAK (@Zakiyyah6) July 10, 2017
Powerful. He had nothing to feel ashamed about. Having an adiction isn't a choice, only doing something about it is. @mstracymartin @DJAC82
— Raging Laker (@Occupy_Staples) July 10, 2017
HBO also spoke out. The network called Ellis a “long-time member of the HBO family” and praised his work on “True Blood” as “groundbreaking.”
Ellis is survived by his wife and son, Breon Ellis.