‘True Blood’ Star Nelsan Ellis Dies at 39

(John P. Johnson / HBO)

Actor Nelsan Ellis, best known for playing Lafayette Reynolds, a flamboyant and outspoken gay short order cook on HBO’s True Blood, has passed away from complications from heart failure at age 39.

“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.”

“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me,” said “True Blood” creator and executive producer Alan Ball in a statement. “Working with him was a privilege.”

Ellis’ “The Help” costar Octavia Spencer broke the news on Instagram Saturday morning, saying, “Just got word that we lost (Nelsan). My heart breaks for his kids and family.”

Ellis appeared in True Blood from 2008 until the series ended in 2014.

As NewNowNext writes, his portrayal of Lafayette was “a change for television: He was a person of color—already a rarity for LGBT depictions on the small screen—but he was also fearless, giving as good as he gave to those who crossed him. And he wasn’t afraid to blend masculine and feminine traits.”

Ellis also played Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniels’s 2013 movie “The Butler,” and appeared in the films “The Help” and “Get On Up.”