Nelsan Ellis struggled with addiction before death

'True Blood' actor Nelsan Ellis dead at 39
'True Blood' actor Nelsan Ellis dead at 39

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    'True Blood' actor Nelsan Ellis dead at 39

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'True Blood' actor Nelsan Ellis dead at 39 00:44

(CNN)The family of late "True Blood" actor Nelsan Ellis says the actor was attempting to withdraw from alcohol leading up to his death on Saturday.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Ellis's family -- via his manager Emily Gerson Saines -- said they were prompted to share the details of the 39-year-old's death in hopes of helping others struggling with addiction.
"Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years. After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own," the statement said. "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."
Ellis, who played tell-it-like-it-is medium Lafayette on the HBO vampire drama, spent four days in the hospital leading up to his death on Saturday, which was initially said to be from heart failure.
    "Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life," the statement added. "His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others."
    In the aftermath of his death, Ellis was remembered on social media by co-stars and friends in Hollywood.
    "True Blood" creator Alan Ball remembered the actor as "a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me."

    I've been looking for pictures of our #trueblood family that I feel truly represent how important and loved Nelsan was to us all both creatively and as a human and I literally can't find one where he is front and center or in any way claiming the spotlight he deserved and belonged in. But that's because that beautiful, gifted man was also the most humble artist I've ever had the pleasure of knowing or working with. Nelsan inhabited characters that bore no resemblance to himself in a way that put him in that tiny category of true virtuoso performer. His ability to transcend and channel anything and everything thrown at him was inspiring and beautiful to watch. Sookie and Lafayette had some crazy adventures both emotionally and sometimes physically demanding and intimidating to me as a performer. But I always knew I was completely safe with Nelsan because he would never let me fall. He made me a better actor by raising the bar absurdly high but always extending a hand to help his scene partners clear it. #trueblood was a real family, cast and crew. 7 years of intense bonding and subsequent years in which, regardless of distance and schedules, the love has remained and the gratitude for how rare and special those relationships are has only grown. I can't even imagine how much pain Nelsan's son and family are in right now. They are in my heart and thoughts all the time. I assumed Nelsan was going to be in my life forever and this has been a shocking reminder of how fragile life is. I've never been very good at telling people to their faces how much they mean to me and I can be very "all business" on set, but I hope that wherever Nelsan is now he knows how much I loved him. I will always cherish those incredible seven years I got to spend with him on the strange and wonderful journey that was True Blood. #ripnelsanellis #trueblood #truelove #truefamily

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    Star Anna Paquin paid tribute to Ellis in a lengthy Instagram post.
    "Nelsan inhabited characters that bore no resemblance to himself in a way that put him in that tiny category of true virtuoso performer," she wrote. "His ability to transcend and channel anything and everything thrown at him was inspiring and beautiful to watch."
    Paquin's husband and actor Stephen Moyer, whom she met on "True Blood," remembered filming an iconic scene with Ellis in which Lafayette waxes poetic about men's fear of the female anatomy, which left the crew in stitches.
    "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," Moyer wrote.