Jonshel Alexander, a former child actor who played a supporting role in the 2012 Oscar nominated film Beasts of the Wild South, was killed in a weekend shooting in her native Louisiana. She was 22 years old.
Police said Alexander and a man were shot dead inside a vehicle in New Orleans on Saturday and that she was pronounced dead at the scene. The man, whose name has not been released, went to the hospital for treatment.
At age 12, Alexander played the character of Joy Strong in Beasts of the Wild South, a drama filmed near Houma telling the story of a poor Louisiana bayou community struggling for its survival. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture.
Director Benh Zeitlin chose Louisiana natives for the lead roles, auditioning over 4,000 actors before completing the casting. Shelly Alexander said her daughter charmed the filmmakers and came out on top.
“She was like, ‘I’m going to be in this movie,'” her mother recalls. “They fell in love with Jonshel.”
Alexander was too old to play the main role of the film, Hushpuppy, who went to QuvenzhanÃ© Wallis, then 6 years old. But Zeitlin said he was captivated by Alexander, describing her as “an absolutely unique, unforgettable human being, a force of nature” and chose her in the supporting role.
âWe incorporated a part into the movie that was very inspired by her,â Zeitlin said. âA lot of lines were written by her, and a lot of the character arose out of who Jonshel was. Her character in the movie is called Joy Strong, which always seemed like a perfect description of Jonshel. She was a light. burning really bright.
Zeitlin said he was devastated to learn of his death and was in contact with his family.
Alexander was the youngest of three children, the Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate reported. After graduating from high school, she worked as a hostess in restaurants and devoted herself to the care of her 1 year old daughter, De-vynne Robinson.
“She brought everything to life,” Shelly Alexander told the newspaper Tuesday. âJonshel was fiery, jazzy, spoiled. It was his way or not. Jonshel told me, “It’s gonna be me.” “
Meanwhile, investigators are looking for someone of interest in the shooting and have asked the public for help with any information on the case.