The family of late actor Nelsan Ellis released a statement about his sudden death at 39.


Ellis, best known for playing Lafayette on HBO’s True Blood, passed away due to “complications with heart failure” on Saturday. The family, however, has decided to shed some light on Ellis’ death. They shared that the actor struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for years, and his health issues arose from withdrawals.

“Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life,” the statement, written by his manager Emily Gerson Saines, says. “His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”

“Nelsan’s father has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan’s heart failure,” it read. “Nelsan has 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.”

Since Ellis’ death, costars and friends have taken to twitter in tribute of the young actor, including Joe ManganielloAnna Paquin, and HBO.

True Blood creator Alan Ball said of Ellis, “Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”

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