Actor Nelsan Ellis has died, his manager Emily Gerson Saines told The Hollywood Reporter. The actor was 39.
“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” Saines said in her statement. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”
In a new statement released to THR, Ellis’ family shared that the actor died from complications due to alcohol withdrawal. Ellis had suffered from substance addiction for years and was attempting to go sober on his own.
“Nelsan’s father, has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan’s heart failure,” the family’s statement reads. “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 statement continues, “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, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”
Ellis co-starred opposite Chadwick Bosman in “Get On Up” as Bobby Byrd, and recently joined the cast of “Elementary” as reformed criminal Shinwell Johnson, but many will know Ellis as the fan favourite, boisterous, but always on point Lafayette Reynolds from HBO’s “True Blood”.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO said 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.”
“True Blood” creator, Alan Ball also had kinds words to share upon hearing of Nelsan’s death.
“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me,” he said. “Working with him was a privilege.”
Ellis’ “Get On Up” co-star Octavia Spencer shared her condolences on Instagram.
Just got word that we lost @nelsanellisofficial. My heart breaks for his kids and family. #RIPNelsanEllis. #brillIantactor #trueblood #getonup #thesoloist #thehelp. The first time I met him was on the set of the soloist and we were at rehearsal with a lot of the homeless cast members, and Nelsan was playing our counselor. He walked in wearing a pair of fitted camo cargo pants, a pristine white tshirt, a beret, and a denim jacket. Needless to say he was gorgeous, sexy. But his talent had me speechless. We became instant friends after that. He was sooooo funny. I miss him. #nelsanellis
Ellis is survived by his grandmother (Alex Brown), his father (Tommie Lee Thompson) and his son (Breon Ellis). He is also survived by his siblings – Lakeeia Thomson (sister), Tommie Lee Thompson (brother), Babon Ellis (brother), Maurice Turne (brother), Tianna Thompson (sister), Shaentika Beard (sister), Yvonne Ellis (sister) and Tartheaia Thompson (aunt).
His mother, Jackie Ellis, predeceased him in death. The family has asked that donations be made to the Jenesse Center or The Restoration Ministries Church of God and Christ.