‘True Blood’ actor Nelsan Ellis dead at 39

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HOLLYWOOD – JUNE 08: Actor Nelsan Ellis arrives at the premiere of HBO’s “True Blood” Season 3 at The Cinerama Dome on June 8, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Nelsan Ellis, known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood,” has died after complications from heart failure, TMZ and other media outlets reported Saturday.

He was 39.

There is no further information on what triggered his heart failure.

On “True Blood,” Ellis played Lafayette, a short order cook at Merlotte’s. In the books, he was killed off, but because Ellis made him such an enjoyable character, 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.”

Ellis also appeared in “The Help,” “Elementary,” “Get On Up” and “The Stanford Prison Experiment” — and played Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”