'True Blood' star Nelsan Ellis dies at 39

Nelsan Ellis, who was well-known for playing Lafayette Reynolds on HBO's "True Blood," has died, the network announced Saturday. He was 39.

"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," the statement said.

The show's creator and executive producer, Alan Ball, also released a statement Saturday afternoon: "Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege."

Ellis' manager, Emily Gerson Saines, told CBS News that the actor passed away after complications with heart failure.

Nelsan was a graduate of The Juilliard School in New York City. He portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniel's "The Butler." He also played a starring role in CBS' "Elementary."

Actress Octavia Spencer, his costar on "The Help," remembered Ellis on Instagram. "Just got word that we lost [Ellis]. My heart breaks for his kids and family," Spencer wrote.

Joe Manganiello, Ellis' "True Blood" co-star, said on Twitter that he was "crushed" by the loss of his friend and cast mate. "He was a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist," he wrote.

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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