The family of Nelsan Ellis has confirmed what his manager, Emily Gerson Saines, said immediately after his death: that the True Blood actor died of complications from heart failure. Now more details are emerging, with Ellis' father revealing to the Hollywood Reporter through Saines that Ellis' heart failure had come about as a result of DIY detoxing. "Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years," the family's statement says, adding that Ellis had decided to wean himself off alcohol by himself after a few rehab attempts. But it didn't go well, leading to a sharp drop in blood pressure (as well as a blood infection), an inflamed liver, and his kidneys shutting down. "His dear sweet heart raced out of control," the statement read.
The Washington Post notes that trying to detox without being under a medical expert's supervision can be "extremely dangerous," especially for those with a long history of abuse. (The paper explains the science behind why the body rebels after the intoxicant is cut off.) And the family statement indicates the 39-year-old actor, who played "Lafayette" on the HBO series, did indeed have a long history of alcohol troubles and "was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it." But the family also wants what happened to him "to serve as a cautionary tale," which is why they decided to share the reasons behind his death. "Nelsan was a gentle, generous, and kind soul," they note. True Blood co-star Anna Paquin mourned her friend on Instagram, writing, "I hope that wherever Nelsan is now he knows how much I loved him." Meanwhile, Vox warns: "America has an alcohol problem."