Nelsan Ellis | HBO

Nelsan Ellis, the actor who starred in HBO’s True Blood as Lafayette Reynolds, has died, his manager Emily Gerson Saines, told The Hollywood Reporter – He was just 39 years-of-age.

In a statement, Emily explained: “Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure.

“He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”

Lafayette was a short order cook at Merlotte’s. In the books, he was killed off, but because Ellis performed to such an extent that he became a fan favourite, he survived in the series.

“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO said in a statement. “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.”

Alan Ball, creator of True Blood explained: “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”

Ellis was born in Harvey, Illinois. He attended Thorn Ridge High School in Dolton, Illinois.

He later attended Oxford University and Columbia College in Chicago, before graduating from the famed Juilliard School.

Nelsen’s family have revealed that the 39-year-old actor spent years battling addictions of drugs and alcohol, and that his heart failure was caused by withdrawal.

In a statement, they said: “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.”