Jonshel Alexander, a onetime child star known for her supporting role as the character Joy Strong in the Oscar-nominated 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild, was shot and killed on Saturday in New Orleans’ 7th Ward. She was 22.
Alexander and an unidentified man were shot on Nov. 27, while sitting in a car at around 9 p.m. on the 1500 block of North Claiborne Avenue, according to the police.
Several outlets, including Deadline, have reported that Alexander was dead at the scene.
The unidentified man who was shot reportedly drove himself to the hospital.
Alexander was a New Orleans native and the youngest of three children. She grew in New Orleans’ 8th Ward on St. Claude Avenue.
During her adolescence, she participated in cheerleading and enrolled in modeling and acting classes. After graduating from Dr. Martin Luther King Charter High School, she worked as a hostess in various restaurants, according to Nola.com.
Alexander was also the mother of a 1-year-old daughter, De-vynne Robinson, to whom the child actress was “devoted.”
“She brought life to everything,” her mother, Shelly told the local outlet on Tuesday. “Jonshel was feisty, jazzy, spoiled. It was her way or no way. Jonshel was like, ‘It’s going to be me.'”
Alexander was age 12 when she starred alongside a then 6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
On Instagram, Wallis posted throwback photos from the film’s set in Alexander’s memory with the caption, “when we were filming we were always together and I wish I could go back in time so I can see you again. I love you. You will be missed by so many🙏🏽🕊🕊 .”
Beasts of the Southern Wild explores the complicated lives of a storm-threatened bayou community set outside the levee system and the children who inhabit it.
Benh Zeitlin, the film’s director, auditioned Louisana natives and reportedly over 4,000 actors before solidifying the cast.
“She was like, ‘I’m going to be in this movie,'” her mother recalled of Alexander’s determination. “They fell in love with Jonshel.”
Although she didn’t get the lead role of Hushpuppy because she was too old, Alexander’s ability as a young actress inspired Zeitlin. He described her as an “absolute one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, force-of-nature human being” while speaking with Nola.
“We incorporated a part into the film that was very much inspired by her,” Zeitlin noted. “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 director said.
Zeitlin was reportedly “completely devasted” after hearing of Alexander’s death and has been in touch with the child star’s family.
While authorities have located a vehicle of interest in relation to the crime, a maroon pickup truck whom they suspect is the killer’s, investigators are still seeking a person of interest.
Anyone with information about Alexander’s killing is asked to 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.