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True Blood Star Nelsan Ellis Dead at 39

True Blood Star Nelsan Ellis Dead at 39

Lafayette Reynolds

Ellis was known for his portrayal of the gay character Lafayette Reynolds on the supernatural HBO series.

Nelsan Ellis has died.

The actor died of complications due to heart failure, reports the Los Angeles Times. He was 39.

Ellis, an actor, was best known for his role of Lafayette Reynolds, a gay chef in the HBO series True Blood. He won a 2008 Satellite Award for his portrayal of the character.

The long-running vampire drama, whose opening credits featured a sign reading "God hates fangs," had many parallels to the real-life LGBT rights movement. And Reynolds -- a flamboyant employee of the restaurant Merlotte's -- was unafraid to stand up to oppression from either human or supernatural foes. A clip of his character confronting homophobic patrons is now being widely shared on social media.

Alan Ball, the creator of True Blood, called Ellis "a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege," in a statement.

"We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis," remarked HBO. "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."

Born in Illinois, Ellis went on to attend Juilliard. He most recently played the role of Shinwell Johnson on the television show Elementary.

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