The celebrated actor was reportedly suffering from alcohol withdrawal when he passed away on July 8.
The family of Nelsan Ellis has revealed what triggered heart failure in the True Blood actor, whose death over the weekend shocked fans and co-stars.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ellis — who played the beloved and colorful short order cook Lafayette in the HBO series' Bellefleur's Bar and Grill — suffered from drug and alcohol abuse for years. In an attempt to get clean, Ellis suffered from alcohol withdrawal which resulted in a blood infection, kidney shutdown and heart complications, his family told THR.
He was 39-years-old.
His family released this statement to THR, in what they say is an "effort to help others who may be struggling with the same addictions that afflicted" the star:
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. 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.
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.
News of Ellis' death stunned his HBO family, many of whom took to social media to send their condolences.
In a statement, HBO called his role as Lafayette Reynolds "groundbreaking."
"We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis. Nelsan was a longtime 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."
In addition to garnering a cult following as Lafayette, Ellis also appeared in The Help, Get On Up and The Butler, where he played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moments before his assassination.
He leaves behind a host of family and friends, including a son, Breon Ellis.