Nelsan Ellis Biography


Birthday: November 30, 1977 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Harvey

Nelsan Ellis was an American actor who was popularly known for portraying the character of ‘Lafayette Reynolds’ in the American dark fantasy horror series ‘True Blood’. Ellis won two Satellite Awards, one Ewwy Award, and one NewNowNext Award for his role in the show. He played one of the lead characters, ‘Shinwell Johnson’, in Robert Doherty’s procedural drama series ‘Elementary’. Ellis was also a big part of the American crime drama television series ‘The Inside’ in the mid-2000s. During his fifteen-year long acting career, Ellis had appeared in numerous feature films as well. He portrayed ‘Eddie Sweat’ in the biographical sports drama film ‘Secretariat’ and appeared in the historical drama film ‘The Butler’, playing the role of ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’ Despite his professional success, the actor’s personal life was a troubled one. Raised by a single mother in poverty, he became addicted to alcohol which ultimately ruined his life and led to his unfortunate death. He portrayed ‘Tyrik’ in his last film ‘True to the Game’ which was released after his death.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 39


father: Tommie Lee Thompson

mother: Jackie Ellis

siblings: Alice Nellis, Babon Ellis, Lakeeia Thomson, Maurice Turne, Shaentika Beard, Tianna Thompson, Tommie Lee Thompson, Yvonne Ellis

True Blood Cast Actors

Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males

Died on: July 8, 2017

Diseases & Disabilities: Dyslexia

U.S. State: Illinois

More Facts

education: Jess Lanier High School, McAdory High School, Thornridge High School, Juilliard School, Columbia College Chicago

Nelsan Ellis began his journey in the show business in 2002, with a role in a short film named ‘Lost’. Nothing came his way for the next three years until he appeared in a television film ‘Warm Springs’ as ‘Roy Collier’. He was offered the role of ‘Carter Howard’ in the American crime drama television series ‘The Inside’. Ellis was part of the show between 2005 and 2006, appearing in twelve episodes. He also appeared in ‘Veronica Mars’ and ‘Without a Trace’ in guest roles.
In 2008, Ellis was offered a role which later established his credentials as an actor. He was approached by the makers of ‘True Blood’, an American dark fantasy horror television series, to play the role of ‘Lafayette Reynolds’. Ellis’ character was of a short order cook who is also a drug dealer. Initially his character was killed at the beginning of the second chapter; however, the popularity of the character forced the makers to revive him and he went on to become a regular in the show. His character was bisexual and according to him, he had to put on a lot of make-up for this role. It took him a few episodes to get a proper hold of his character.
Ellis won the Satellite Award from the International Press Academy in the best supporting actor category in 2008, and a year later, he won the NewNowNext Award. He was also given the Satellite Award for ‘Best Cast – Television Series’ and an Ewwy Award for best supporting actor in a drama series.
Ellis portrayed the role of ‘Eddie Sweat’ in the American biographical sports drama film ‘Secretariat’. The film was based on the life of the racehorse, Secretariat, the winner of the Triple Crown in 1973, and featured John Malkovich and Diane Lane among others. He appeared in the 2012 political thriller drama ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ alongside Riz Ahmed and Kate Hudson. He also appeared in ‘The Butler’, an American historical drama film, where he played the role of ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’ In 2015, Ellis appeared in the thriller film ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment’ as ‘Jesse Fletcher’.
Nelsan Ellis played one of the lead characters in the procedural drama series ‘Elementary’, created by Robert Doherty. He portrayed the character of ‘Shinwell Johnson’, an ex-convict and gang member who was once a patient of Dr. Watson. Ellis was part of the show for the fifth season between 2016 and 2017. Just before his death, Ellis had finished working in two films, ‘True to the Game’ and ‘Roxanne Roxanne’, which were released posthumously.
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Personal Life
Nelsan Ellis was born in Harvey, Illinois, on November 30, 1977, to Tommie Lee Thompson and Jackie Ellis. His parents got divorced and Ellis was raised by his single mother along with his siblings. He went to Jess Lanier High School and McAdory High School before enrolling at the Thornridge High School in Dolton. In 2004, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Juilliard School. He was also an alumnus of the Illinois State University.
He was married and had two children: a son Breon Ellis and a daughter who was just an infant at the time of Ellis’ untimely death.
Ellis struggled with alcoholism and was trying to get rid of his drinking problem in the days before his death. According to his family, he was suffering from alcohol withdrawal syndrome. He died of heart failure in Woodhull Medical Center, New York, on July 8, 2017; he was just 39 years old at the time of his death.

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