True Blood's Nelsan Ellis Was Going Through Alcohol Withdrawal When His Heart Failed

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

The profoundly talented and likeable Nelsan Ellis, best known for his portrayal of Lafayette on True Blood, died this week at only 39 years old. The cause was reportedly heart failure, but his family has come forward to say that he was going through alcohol withdrawal when he died, in an attempt to get sober on his own.


TMZ reports that Ellis had been fighting a drug and alcohol addiction for years, and was trying to recover on his own when he became suddenly ill:

“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 family went on to say Nelsan “was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”


A deeply sad story about someone who was so widely beloved.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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Had my dad not already been in the ICU for another thing when he went through alcohol withdrawal, it likely would have killed him; until then, I didn’t realize how tough that process is on the body. Although I never watched True Blood, I thought Ellis did a fantastic job as Shinwell, on Elementary. Very sad loss.