True Blood cast pay tribute to co-star Nelsan Ellis after his death

The actor has died suddenly aged 39

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Tributes have been pouring in for departed True Blood star Nelsan Ellis, who has passed away aged 39..

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“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” his agent said in a statement. 

“He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.” 

The actor, who played crossdressing fry cook Lafayette Reynolds in all seven seasons of the HBO vampire drama (despite his character being killed off much earlier in Charlaine Harris’ source novels) was remembered by series stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer among others from the cast, as well as by series author Harris and many others who he’d worked with over the years.

One of the first places we shot on the pilot of True Blood was Sam Merlotte’s Bar. The kitchen Suzuki Ingerslev built in Merlotte’s had a walk in freezer & working gas burners. It remained my favourite set throughout all 7 seasons – when shooting in Louisiana many months later she took us to the actual bar she had used as inspiration. It was almost as amazing as our Merlotte’s, but not quite – They didn’t have a Lafayette. In the scene that was being shot that day, Lafayette, a male cross-dressing short order cook in the show, was expounding on his theory of men’s fear of the female anatomy.. specifically, the vagina. ‘I know every man whether straight, gay or George MotherFuckin’ Bush is afraid of the pussy..’ I’m not sure I have ever seen, before or since, people crowd around a monitor at video village with their hands clapped to their mouths from shock, sheer laughter and wonder as the actor playing Lafayette jiggled and shook and humped the butchers block to get his point across. it was completely original, funny, sardonic, risqué and brilliant. That was Nelsan Ellis. All of the above. I turned to Alan Ball when the scene was finished and whispered… ‘you can’t kill him!’ (Lafayette’s death at the of the first book is the cliffhanger that leads to Book 2… ) Nelsan Ellis was the only actor in the 7 years of True Blood whom Alan allowed to improvise. Actually, I’m going to take that back. It wasn’t that Alan allowed him to do it, it was more that when Nelsan inhabited the world of Lafayette, he quite literally COULDN’T STOP himself. It was like he was possessed. In actuality Nelsan was quiet, smart, thoughtful, warm and kind. A published playwright himself. I think it would be fair to say that he taught all of us that intent and courage and fearlessness and freedom are the aspects of playing make-believe that spark the corners of the room where the dark is most impenetrable; to shine a light on those corners within ourselves is the very reason we go back time and again to Movies, TV shows and Theatre. To see that spark ignited. Nelsan had that electricity in an abundance I have rarely seen. I can’t believe he’s gone. #nelsanellis

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“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” True Blood makers HBO added 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.” 

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Ellis had also recently appeared in movies including The Butler, The Help, Get On Up and The Stanford Prison Experiment, with TV work including Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary.