Nelsan Ellis—best known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood—has died of complications from heart failure. He was 39.
His manager, Emily Gerson Saines, confirmed Ellis’s cause of death to the Hollywood Reporter. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed,” she said.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO wrote 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.”
The news of Ellis’s death was broken by his The Help co-star Octavia Spencer, who posted a photo of the actor on Instagram.
After graduating from Juilliard, Ellis went on to play Lafayette Reynolds, a short order cook-slash-vampire blood dealer on True Blood. The books that served as the show’s source material saw Reynolds’s character killed off relatively early, but Ellis’s portrayal became such a fan favorite that writers kept him around for all seven seasons, Rolling Stone reports.
Alan Ball, True Blood’s creator, said that “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”
In addition to True Blood, Ellis also had roles in Elementary, Get On Up, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Little Boxes and The Butler.