‘True Blood’ Actor Nelsan Ellis Alcohol Withdrawal
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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.

I've been looking for pictures of our #trueblood family that I feel truly represent how important and loved Nelsan was to us all both creatively and as a human and I literally can't find one where he is front and center or in any way claiming the spotlight he deserved and belonged in. But that's because that beautiful, gifted man was also the most humble artist I've ever had the pleasure of knowing or working with. Nelsan inhabited characters that bore no resemblance to himself in a way that put him in that tiny category of true virtuoso performer. His ability to transcend and channel anything and everything thrown at him was inspiring and beautiful to watch. Sookie and Lafayette had some crazy adventures both emotionally and sometimes physically demanding and intimidating to me as a performer. But I always knew I was completely safe with Nelsan because he would never let me fall. He made me a better actor by raising the bar absurdly high but always extending a hand to help his scene partners clear it. #trueblood was a real family, cast and crew. 7 years of intense bonding and subsequent years in which, regardless of distance and schedules, the love has remained and the gratitude for how rare and special those relationships are has only grown. I can't even imagine how much pain Nelsan's son and family are in right now. They are in my heart and thoughts all the time. I assumed Nelsan was going to be in my life forever and this has been a shocking reminder of how fragile life is. I've never been very good at telling people to their faces how much they mean to me and I can be very "all business" on set, but I hope that wherever Nelsan is now he knows how much I loved him. I will always cherish those incredible seven years I got to spend with him on the strange and wonderful journey that was True Blood. #ripnelsanellis #trueblood #truelove #truefamily

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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.   

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