Nelsan Ellis passed away suddenly at the age of 39 over the weekend and his family has decided to speak out about the circumstances surrounding his death. Over the weekend it was reported that Ellis had passed away due to complications from heart failure, but there were no further details given. Fans of HBO's True Blood were shocked and saddened to learn of Ellis' death, many proclaiming the actor's portrayal of Lafayette to be a highlight of the entire series and Ellis' costars took to social media to pay heartfelt tribute to the late actor.
Nelsan Ellis' family spoke to The Hollywood Reporter to share the circumstances around the young actor's death. The truth is that Nelsan Ellis struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for years and it finally took its toll on his body. Ellis' family shared the facts surrounding Ellis' death in an effort to help others who may be going through a similar situation. The family prepared a statement to explain the situation. The statement reads.
"Nelsan's father, has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan's heart failure. 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."
Nelsan Ellis' family remembers him as a "gentle, generous and kind soul," which was also echoed by his numerous co-stars. Ellis' family went on to say that the late actor was ashamed of his addictions and therefore did not share it publicly. But the family ultimately decided to share Ellis' story to try and help others who may be struggling with addiction. The statement continues saying this.
"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 was best known for playing the fan-favorite Lafayette Reynolds on True Blood, which aired from 2008 to 2014 on HBO. The young actor also took up the role as Bobby Byrd in the 2014 James Brown biopic Get Up and also played Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniels' The Butler. In addition, Ellis portrayed Henry the Waiter in 2011's The Help and was last seen in the indie drama Little Boxes. Ellis won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for True Blood in 2011 as well as a Scream Award, NewNowNext Award, and an Ewwy Award in 2009, and a Satellite Award in 2008 all for his performance as Lafayette on True Blood, which is wonderful because Lafayette was killed off pretty early on in the True Blood book series that inspired the hit show. It wasn't until producers saw Ellis in action and saw the fan reaction that they altered the show to continue on with Lafayette.
After his parents divorced when he was 6, Ellis moved around from family member to family member, finally settling in Chicago and attending Thornbridge High School. It was there that he got into acting after some help from a girlfriend and the art department at Thornbridge. The actor has said that Thornbridge changed the course of his life, as he had never thought about acting before. The experience in Chicago allowed Nelsan Ellis to later share his talents with the world.