LOS ANGELES, July 9, (Agencies): Nelsan Ellis — famous for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood” — has passed away at age 39, Variety can confirm.
The actor died after complications from heart failure.
“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”.
“True Blood” creator and executive producer Alan Ball echoed HBO’s epitaph in a statement of his own. “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me”, said Ball. “Working with him was a privilege”.
Ellis’ “The Help” costar Octavia Spencer broke the news on Instagram Saturday morning, saying, “Just got word that we lost (Nelsan). My heart breaks for his kids and family”.
Born in Harvey, Illinois in 1977, he and his siblings were moved to Alabama to live with their aunt before Ellis decided to move back to Chicago at age 15. At 17, he joined the Marines, but quit shortly after. After studying at Illinois State University, Ellis went on to get his B.F.A. from Juilliard, where he just so happened to be a class above his eventual “True Blood” costar, Rutina Wesley.
“The studies were so intense and the institution is so white, and I’m a black man from the South with a very specific vernacular and palate”, he recalled to Backstage in 2009. “I felt like an alien, and I struggled the first couple of years. But it transformed who I am as an actor and a person”.
After a single season on Fox’s “The Inside” opposite Rachel Nichols and Adam Baldwin and an episode of “Veronica Mars”, Ellis was then cast in the role that would define his career — gay short order cook Lafayette Reynolds.
“I have more makeup on than any of the females in the (True Blood) cast”, Ellis once famously noted to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Once they get me with the fake eyelashes and the eye makeup, I listen to some Rihanna and I’m there”.
After 80 episodes over the span of seven seasons, Ellis walked away with a handful of sought after awards: Two Satellite Awards, an Ewwy for best supporting dramatic actor, and a NewNowNext Award for actor on the brink of fame.
Following the success of “True Blood”, Ellis moved from TV to film, landing key roles in movies like “Get On Up”, “The Stanford Prison Experiment”, “Little Boxes”, “The Butler”, and “The Help”. Most recently, the actor could be seen in a lead role on CBS’ “Elementary”, including the just-wrapped fifth season.
“Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis”, said “True Blood” costar Joe Manganiello. “He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist. RIP”.
Ellis is survived by his grandmother, his father, and his son, Breon, as well as seven siblings.
The Illinois-born actor, who studied at Juilliard, played the role of Lafayette, a gay short order cook, on the HBO drama from 2008 to 2014, and more recently appeared in the CBS detective series “Elementary”. He also was a playwright and a stage director.
Ellis appeared as Martin Luther King, Jr in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”, and as singer Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up”.
On Twitter, some fans posted one of his more famous scenes as Lafayette, where the character marches out of the kitchen to confront some bigoted diners.
In a 2012 TV interview in Chicago, Ellis recalled that it took four auditions for him to nail the role of Lafayette. At first, he said, he was playing the role as a caricature, and was told to “go back to the drawing board and figure it out”.
He then began to channel his mother. “Once I started to act like my Mama, my fourth audition, I got the part”, he said.
Born in Harvey, Illinois, Ellis attended Thornridge High School, where he credited teachers with instilling the craft of theater in him. He later attended Juilliard in New York City.
Dr Spencer Johnson, whose book “Who Moved My Cheese?” sold 25 million copies and became a business and self-help phenomenon, has died.
Johnson’s executive assistant Nancy Casey said Saturday that he died Monday of complications from pancreatic cancer in the San Diego-area city of Encinitas.
“Who Moved My Cheese?” was a slim, 94-page fable on the need to embrace change that was derived from a story Johnson had told at parties and used in speeches.
Published in 1998, it featured two mice — Sniff and Scurry — and two tiny humans — Hem and Haw — and was set in a maze. The title is a quote from one of the humans, who can’t accept that he needs to seek out food in new places, instead returning to the same place for it repeatedly.
Eventually, Haw learns to leave his place of comfort in search of cheese.
“Before long, he knew why he felt good”, Johnson wrote. “He stopped to write again on the wall: ‘When you stop being afraid, you feel good!’”
The book became a cultural constant in the late 1990s. It appeared in the front windows of airport bookstores, was endlessly quoted in graduation addresses and motivational seminars, and was the go-to gift for Father’s Day. Parody versions soon began popping up.
An acrobat has fallen to his death in front of horrified onlookers at a festival in Madrid, sparking anger at organisers who refused to halt performances following the accident.
Pedro Aunion Monroy, a Spanish performance artist living in Britain, tumbled around 30 metres (100 feet) during a dance routine at the Mad Cool event in the Spanish capital late Friday.
“I regret to tell you he died today”, his sister Estefi Chaje posted on Facebook. “He was doing what he loved the most … We are devastated”.
Organisers of the three-day music festival, which featured acts including US rock bands Foo Fighters and Green Day, issued a statement saying the event would continue despite the “terrible accident”.