Nelsan Ellis, the 39-year-old Harvey native known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds in the HBO series “True Blood,” died of complications related to alcohol addiction withdrawal, according to a family statement released to Hollywoodreporter.com by his manager, Emily Gerson Saines.
The statement read in part, “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.”
Ellis’ heart stopped on Saturday.
“Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life,” Saines’ statement concluded. “His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.
A graduate of Thornridge High School in Dolton, Ellis’ film roles included “The Soloist,” “Secretariat” and “Little Boxes.” He also portrayed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” and Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up.” His television credits also included the CBS series “Elementary.”
In addition to his father, he is survived by his son Breon Ellis; grandmother, Alex Brown; aunt Tartheaia Thompson, and seven siblings.