Nelsan Ellis, born Nelson Leon Ellis (1977–2017) in Harvey, Illinois, was an award-winning actor and a playwright. As a child, he moved with his family to Bessemer, Alabama, then back to Illinois (Dolton), where he graduated from Thornridge High School. While studying performing arts at The Julliard School, he wrote an original play, Ugly, which portrayed the effects of domestic abuse after his sister Alice was shot to death by her husband in 2002. The play, which was performed at Julliard, received the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' Martin E. Segal Award. Nelsan is well-remembered for his role as Lafayette Reynolds in HBO's True Blood (2008) for which he won a Satellite Award (International Press Academy, 2008) for best supporting actor in a television series. He also won the Brink of Fame: Actor award at the 2009 NewNowNext Awards. Nelsan was just 39 years old when he died from heart failure in 2017.