Family says ‘True Blood’ actor’s death stemmed from alcohol withdrawal

Family says ‘True Blood’ actor’s death stemmed from alcohol withdrawal
Actor Nelsan Ellis attends HBO's "True Blood" panel during Comic-Con International 2014 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The family of “True Blood” actor Nelsan Ellis released a statement about his cause of death, noting that it serves as a warning to others.

Ellis died Saturday of heart failure related to alcohol withdrawal complications, his family told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday. They noted that he struggled with alcoholism for years before ultimately succumbing to it.

“Nelsan’s father has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan’s heart failure. Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years,” the statement from his family reads (sic).

“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,” the statement read.

Ellis played fan-favorite Lafayette Reynolds on the HBO show.

“On the morning of Saturday July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul. He was a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, and a great friend to those that were lucky enough to know him. Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others,” his family added.

In a statement, HBO wrote that it’s “extremely saddened” to hear the loss of Ellis, 39.

“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,” the company said.

His “True Blood” co-stars mourned the loss.

“(T)hat beautiful, gifted man was also the most humble artist I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing or working with,” Anna Paquin posted on Instagram. “Nelsan inhabited characters that bore no resemblance to himself in a way that put him in that tiny category of true virtuoso performer.”


“True Blood” actor Joe Manganiello wrote on Twitter, “Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis. He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist. RIP.”


Ellis leaves behind a son, Breon, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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