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'True Blood' Star Nelsan Ellis Dies At 39 Due To Heart Failure

by Kaitlin Kimont

At the young age of 39, True Blood star Nelsan Ellis has died due to heart failure, according The Hollywood Reporter. The heartbreaking news was announced on Saturday and understandably comes as a shock to his fans, leading many to wonder what heart condition — if any — led to the beloved actor's sudden passing.

"Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure," Emily Gerson Saines, Ellis' manager, told The Hollywood Reporter. "He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed."

From the statement, it's not clear whether Ellis — who portrayed Lafayette, a flamboyant, charismatic gay man who worked as short order cook, on all seven seasons of the HBO vampire series — was living with a heart condition before his death on July 8.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several conditions that can damage or weaken the heart and can cause heart failure, but it can happen suddenly — although rare — in younger people due to "undiscovered heart defects or overlooked heart abnormalities."

At the moment, details regarding Ellis' health and any conditions he may have been diagnosed with are scarce. But considering how unexpected his death was and the impact he had on his many fans, it's likely that more information could emerge in the coming days.

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"We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis," HBO said in a statement, according to Variety. "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."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, True Blood creator, Alan Ball also issued a statement on Saturday: "Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege."

In addition to his role on True Blood, Ellis also portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in The Butler, Eddie Sweat in 2010's Secretariat as well as Henry the waiter in The Help and a starring role in the thriller film The Stanford Prison Experiment, according to Rolling Stone.

Octavia Spencer, who worked alongside Ellis in The Help, wrote on Instagram: "Just got word that we lost @nelsanellisofficial. My heart breaks for his kids and family."

As Variety reported, Ellis leaves behind his son — Breon — seven siblings, as well as his father and grandmother.

For the many fans who have been moved by his stellar performances, Ellis will undoubtedly be missed and his presence on-screen leaves a void that will surely be tough to fill.