We were all shocked earlier this year by the death of actor Nelsan Ellis. Ellis, who’d made a name for himself as True Blood fan favorite Lafayette Reynolds, passed away in July after suffering fron alcohol withdrawal.
Queen Sugar‘s Rutina Wesley and Dawn-Lyen Gardner remember their Juilliard classmate fondly. Speaking with ESSENCE’s Yes, Girl! podcast the ladies remembered Ellis as someone who “always found the beauty in the chaos.”
Wesley, who also worked with Ellis on hit series True Blood, recalled the actor’s beautiful spirit. “He’s a genius. He really, truly…he was that dude. He was my dude. It hurts,” she told ESSENCE. “I miss him, but I know he’s going to live on and on and on because of the body of work he’s done and his spirit is here still. He’s in all of us, now. He’s watching all of us.”
Gardner recalled her time at Juilliard with the actor, who she said had the “ability to be really intimate and distinct” with every person he conneected with.
“I think witnessing each other in that time and sharing the experience of being a Black woman in the business, being a Black actor in the business, being a Black creative in the business, there’s a shared understanding of the challenge,” Gardner said. “A shared understanding of dreams, a shared understanding of community. It’s something that you share coming out of that experience that’s just beyond being an actor.”