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Hollywood mourns death of 'True Blood' star Nelsan Ellis

Nelsan Ellis, an actor best known for his role in the vampire series "True Blood," has died. He was 39 years old.

Nelsan Ellis, who played the sassy drug-dealing medium Lafayette Reynolds on the 2008-14 TV series "True Blood" has died, aged 39. The actor, playwright and stage director lost his life following heart failure.

"We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis," TV network HBO announced. "Nelsan was a longtime member of the HBO family whose groundbreaking portrayal of Lafayette will be remembered fondly within the overall legacy of 'True Blood.'"

As news of the actor's death spread, many fans posted a clip from the show where his character bursts out of a restaurant kitchen to confront a table of homophobic diners.

'Crushed today'

Born in Illinois, Ellis graduated from New York's Juilliard conservatory. He appeared in "The Soloist," the Oscar-winning "The Help" and as Martin Luther King Jr. in "The Butler," released in 2013.

Anna Paquin, who starred in "True Blood" as Sookie, a half-fairy waitress with the hots for vampires, wrote late Saturday on Twitter that losing Ellis had left her "devastated."

Joe Manganiello, who played Alcide, a construction-working werewolf heartthrob, on "True Blood," took to Twitter late Saturday to pay tribute: "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."

"Unbelievably sad news," Michael Raymond-James, who played the serial-killing pseudo Cajun Rene in the first season of "True Blood," wrote late Saturday on Twitter. "Nelsan was such a sweet, gentle soul with an enormous talent. He will be missed greatly RIP."

"My heart breaks for his kids and his family," Octavia Spencer, his co-star in "The Help," wrote late Saturday in an Instagram post. "He was sooooo funny. I miss him."

mkg/tj (AFP, dpa, AP)

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