Jonshel Alexander, the former child star who appeared alongside Quvenzhané Wallis in the Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, was found shot to death over the weekend.
Alexander was found inside of a vehicle in New Orleans on Saturday and was pronounced dead at the scene, NBC News reports. The 22-year-old was shot along with a man who was able to drive himself to a hospital for treatment.
She rose to fame at the age of 12 playing the character Joy Strong in Beasts of the Southern Wild. The drama told the story of a poor Louisiana bayou community struggling for survival. It went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture.
At the time, Alexander was too old to play the film’s lead role of Hushpuppy, but her performance captivated the film’s producers and landed her a part in the movie. Her mother, Shelley Alexander recalled her young daughter walking into the audition with confidence.
“She was like, ‘I’m going to be in this movie,’” her mother said. “They fell in love with Jonshel.”
Director Benh Zeitlin wanted real Louisiana natives for the lead roles and had auditioned over 4,000 actors before finalizing the cast.
“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.”
Alexander was the youngest of three children. She worked as a hostess in restaurants and devoted herself to the care of her 1-year-old daughter, De-vynne Robinson after graduating high school, The New Orleans Advocate reports.
“She brought life to everything,” Shelly Alexander said. “Jonshel was feisty, jazzy, spoiled. It was her way or no way. Jonshel was like, ‘It’s going to be me.’ ”
Authorities are asking the public for help in locating the suspect involved with the shooting.