His manager Emily Gerson Saines confirmed the news in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying he passed away due to heart failure.
‘Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,’ Saines said.
‘He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.’
Makers HBO also paid tribute to the actor in a statement, saying: ‘We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis.
‘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.’
Series creator Alan Ball is among others who have paid tribute, calling working with the actor ‘a privilege’, while Octavia Spencer honoured his memory on Instagram, saying: ‘My heart breaks for his kids and family.’
Just got word that we lost @nelsanellisofficial. My heart breaks for his kids and family. #RIPNelsanEllis. #brillIantactor #trueblood #getonup #thesoloist #thehelp. The first time I met him was on the set of the soloist and we were at rehearsal with a lot of the homeless cast members, and Nelsan was playing our counselor. He walked in wearing a pair of fitted camo cargo pants, a pristine white tshirt, a beret, and a denim jacket. Needless to say he was gorgeous, sexy. But his talent had me speechless. We became instant friends after that. He was sooooo funny. I miss him. #nelsanellis
Ellis played short order cook Lafayette on all seven seasons of True Blood – with his character surviving throughout the series despite being killed off much earlier in the books on which the show was based.
He also appeared in a number of movies including The Butler, The Help, Get On Up and The Stanford Prison Experiment – and more recently had also been starring in Elementary, the US update of Sherlock Holmes.
Ellis is survived by his grandmother, his father and his son Breon, as well as three brothers and four sisters.