Nelsan Ellis, “True Blood”‘s Lafayette, Dies at 39

Waylon JordanNews, Rest In PeaceLeave a Comment

It is truly a sad day for fans of “True Blood”.  Nelsan Ellis, who played the sassy, out and proud Lafayette Reynolds, has died from complications due to heart failure.  The actor was 39 years old.

Ellis grew up between Illinois and Alabama due to his parents’ divorce when he was a child.  The actor ultimately settled in Dolton, Illinois, however, to finish out the remainder of his high school education.  He graduated in 1997 and was accepted into the prestigious Julliard school where he studied acting.  During his time at the school, Ellis wrote a play called “Ugly”.  The subject was domestic abuse, and Ellis wrote it in response to the death of his own sister, who was shot to death by her husband.  Not only was the play performed, but it also won the Lincoln Center for the Arts’ Martin A. Segal Award.

From Julliard, he began developing his career with smaller roles on film and guest appearances on television before taking on the role that would cement his name in the horror history books.

Lafayette Reynolds burst onto the screen in the series premiere of the hit HBO series “True Blood”, based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris.  What had been a barely mentioned character in the source material became fully alive in Ellis’s hands.

Lafayette was bold and unapologetic for his sexual orientation despite the constant opposition he faced in the small town Louisiana setting of the series. Fans would be hard pressed to forget this scene in which he confronts the homophobic comments made by some of Sam’s bar patrons.  They men implied that they didn’t want to get AIDS from Lafayette’s cooking, and well, you can see how he handled it.

By the end of season one, it was clear that Lafayette was a character the fans were passionate about and so the writers decided to stray from the book, one of many times they did so, and kept Lafayette alive even though he’d been scheduled to die in the series finale.

Though many things wavered in the seven seasons of the series, Lafayette remained a driving force, and Ellis infused each moment with sensitivity, charm, humor, and honesty.

Due to the character, Ellis was often asked about how he felt about issues the LGBTQ community faced.  In an interview with “Vibe” magazine, when asked what he thought on the subject of gay marriage, he was quoted as saying:

“I support it. I think anybody should – I mean – I have my religious views, but I don’t choose to oppress them on anybody. I think in this country, anybody can do whatever they want to do as long as it’s not hurting anybody else or violating the laws of society. If you want to get married to a man then get married to a man. If two women want to get married they should get married. It’s not hurting me. The beautiful thing about this country is that I can be a Christian and feel free to do so. Or somebody cannot be a Christian and do whatever that entails. Or somebody can be a Christian and still be gay and I support it. Let gay people get married.”

Ellis’s “True Blood” co-stars took to Twitter to remember their fallen comrade.

We here at iHorror send our thoughts and condolences to Ellis’s family and friends during this time of tragedy.  Rest well in the light, and thanks for Lafayette.

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Waylon Jordan is a lifelong fan of genre fiction and film especially those with a supernatural element. He firmly believes that horror reflects collective fears of society and can be used as a tool for social change.