Nelsan Ellis Remembered by True Blood Co-Star Stephen Moyer: "I Can't Believe He's Gone"

Actor died at age 39, his rep announced Saturday

By Corinne Heller Jul 09, 2017 6:56 PMTags
Nelsan Ellis, Stephen MoyerGetty Images

Nelsan Ellis was "original, funny, sardonic, risqué and brilliant," his former True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer says in a touching new tribute to the late star.

Ellis' rep announced Saturday that the actor had died at age 39 after complications of heart failure. His death sent shockwaves on social media, especially since his True Blood character, the cook Lafayette, was so beloved.

Many of his former co-stars, including Moyer, who played main vampire Bill on the HBO show, posted messages of condolence and online tributes to him. Moyer shared a longer one on Facebook early Sunday, describing one of his earliest memories of him.

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Moyer shared a behind-the-scenes photo of Ellis in character and recalled how the actor filmed a scene in which Lafayette explains to waitress and Bill's love interest Sookie, played by Moyer's real wife Anna Paquin, how men are afraid of vaginas.

"I'm not sure I have ever seen, before or since, people crowd around a monitor at video village with their hands clapped to their mouths from shock, sheer laughter and wonder as the actor playing Lafayette jiggled and shook and humped the butchers block to get his point across," Moyer wrote. "it was completely original, funny, sardonic, risqué and brilliant."

"That was Nelsan Ellis. All of the above," he said. "I turned to [showrunner] Alan Ball when the scene was finished and whispered… 'You can't kill him!' (Lafayette's death at the of the first book is the cliffhanger that leads to Book 2… )."

Moyer said Ellis "inhabited the world of Lafayette" and "quite literally COULDN'T STOP himself" from improvising.

"It was like he was possessed," he said.

Moyer said that in real life, "Nelsan was quiet, smart, thoughtful, warm and kind. A published playwright himself."

"I think it would be fair to say that he taught all of us that intent and courage and fearlessness and freedom are the aspects of playing make-believe that spark the corners of the room where the dark is most impenetrable; to shine a light on those corners within ourselves is the very reason we go back time and again to Movies, TV shows and Theatre. To see that spark ignited," Moyer said. "Nelsan had that electricity in an abundance I have rarely seen. I can't believe he's gone. #nelsanellis."