Nelsan Ellis

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Nelsan Ellis

Nelsan Ellis (born November 30, 1977 in Harvey, Illinois; died July 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California) was a playwright and actor, best known for portraying the character "Lafayette" on the HBO series True Blood.

Born in Illinois, Ellis and his mother moved to Bessemer after her divorce six years later. He attended Jess Lanier High School for a year, then transferred to McAdory High School. He also took a job at Larry's Fish Pot & Barbecue. He left Alabama at 15 to move back to Illinois. He graduated from Thornridge High School in Dolton in 1997.

After a brief stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Ellis enrolled at Illinois State University, and from there was accepted into the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City. There the staging of his semi-autobiographical play Ugly won the Lincoln Center's Martin E. Segal Award. He played the part of "Hoffa" in a 2002 short film entitled Lost. His first television role came in 2005 with a part in the telefilm Warm Springs which starred Kenneth Branagh as Franklin D. Roosevelt.

He was cast as a flamboyent cross-dressing short-order cook and gigolo "Lafayette Reynolds" in True Blood, a television series based on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. He won a 2008 International Press Academy Satellite Award as "best supporting actor in a television series" for his performance. He later played the role of musician Bobby Byrd in the 2014 James Brown biographical feature "Get On Up."

Ellis died at home from heart failure in July 2017.


  • Sharp, Dave (August 9, 2009) "'True Blood's' Lafayette a glamorously shady character." The Birmingham News
  • "Nelsan Ellis" (July 9, 2017) Wikipedia - accessed July 9, 2017
  • Roop, Lee (July 8, 2017) "'True Blood' star and Bessemer-bred Nelsan Ellis dead at 39." The Birmingham News

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