In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter through his manager Emily Gerson Saines, he said the actor “suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years.”
After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own. According to his father, during his withdrawal from alcohol he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear sweet heart raced out of control.
On the morning of Saturday July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul. He was a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, and a great friend to those that were lucky enough to know him. Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.
Ellis appeared in numerous film and TV shows, including The Soloist, The Butler, Get on Up and Elementary. He was a series regular on HBO’s True Blood as the fan-favorite Lafayette Reynolds. Tributes poured in over the weekend from co-stars who were heartbroken to learn of Ellis’ death.
“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,” Joe Manganiello, who worked with Ellis on HBO’s True Blood, wrote on Twitter.
Octavia Spencer, who shared the screen with Ellis in “The Help” and “The Soloist,” said they became “instant friends” after meeting on the set of the latter. Of their first encounter on set she wrote, “Needless to say, he was gorgeous, sexy. But his talent had me speechless … I miss him.”