Former child actor, Jonshel Alexander, best known for her supporting role in the 2012 Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, was killed in a shooting in Louisiana.
She was 22.
According to PEOPLE, police say that Alexander and a man, whose name has not yet been released, were shot inside a vehicle on Saturday (Nov. 27) in New Orleans’ 7th Ward at 9 p.m.. She was pronounced dead at the scene and he reportedly drove to a local hospital for treatment.
Alexander, played the character of Joy Strong in Beasts of the Southern Wild, at the age of 12. The drama followed the story of a poor Louisiana bayou community struggling to survive. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Director of the film, Benh Zeitlin, cast Louisiana natives for the lead roles and auditioned more than 4,000 actors before rounding out the cast. Shelly Alexander, Jonshel’s mother, said her daughter wowed filmmakers.
“She was like, ‘I’m going to be in this movie,’” her mother recalled. “They fell in love with Jonshel.”
While the then-12-year-old was too old to play the movie’s lead role of Hushpuppy, which was given to then 6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis (Black-ish, Swagger, 12 Years A Slave), Zeitilin was so captivated by Alexander that he cast her in the supporting role.
“We incorporated a part into the film that was very much inspired by her,” Zeitlin said. “A lot of the lines were written by her, and so much of the character grew out of who Jonshel was. Her character in the film is named Joy Strong, which always seemed like a perfect description of Jonshel. She was a really bright burning light.”
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Alexander was the youngest of three children and was taking care of her 1-year-old daughter, De-vynne Robinson.
“She brought life to everything,” Shelly Alexander told the newspaper on Tuesday (Nov. 30). “Jonshel was feisty, jazzy, spoiled. It was her way or no way.”
Investigators are seeking a person of interest in the shooting and have asked the public’s help for any information on the case.
Police ask that anyone with information about this vehicle, individual or the killing call homicide detective Brittany Kimbrough at (504) 658-5300 or call Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans Inc. anonymously at (504) 822-1111 or (877) 903-7867.