Nelsan Ellis, best known for playing gay cook Lafayette Reynolds on HBO's True Blood, has died at age 39.
Ellis, who joined the cast of CBS' Elementary this past season, was also in the Oscar Best Picture nominee The Help alongside Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Emma Stone.
He was born in Harvey, Illinois, and he and his family moved to Alabama before he moved to Chicago in his mid-teens. After being in the military, Ellis studied at Illinois State University before getting his bachelor's degree at the New York City's Juilliard School.
Many celebrities mourned Ellis' passing on social media. Said True Blood creator Alan Ball: "Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege." Former True Blood co-star Joe Manganiello posted, " Crushed today by the loss of my friend and castmate Nelsan Ellis. He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist. RIP."
Ellis was also behind the local group The Collective Theatre, an African-American company. He discussed the company's first play, HooDoo Love, with Windy City Times in 2012; see WindyCityMediaGroup.com/lgbt/Nelsan-Ellis-From-True-Blood-to-Hoodoo-Love/39569.html .