Child Actor Jonshel Alexander, Star of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ Gunned Down in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 25: (L-R) Actresses Jonshel Alexander and Quvenzhane Wallis on the dance floor at Fox Searchlight Pictures Presents "Beasts of the Southern Wild" After Party on June 25, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Skip Bolen/Getty Images for Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Skip Bolen/Getty Images for Fox Searchlight Pictures

Jonshel Alexander, who had a breakout role in the Academy Award-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, was shot and killed in New Orleans last weekend.

When she was 12 years old, Alexander was featured as Joy Strong in the film shot around the New Orleans area. But at 22, she is now gone after being shot Saturday as she sat in a vehicle in the 1500 block of Clairborne Ave. at 9 p.m.

First responders declared the 22-year-old former actress dead at the scene, according to Nola.com. Another person was also shot during the attack, but he drove himself to a local hospital and is expected to recover.

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Alexander was born in New Orleans’ 8th Ward and leaves a one-year-old daughter behind, the paper added.

Director Benh Zeitlin, who helmed the 2012 surrealist drama, Beasts of the Southern Wild, was shocked to hear of Alexander’s murder.

Zeitlin recalled how striking Alexander was during the casting for the movie. He was so taken with her he wrote a role just for her.

“We incorporated a part into the film that was very much inspired by her,” Zeitlin said, according to Nola.com. “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.”

“She brought life to everything,” the victim’s mother, Shelly Alexander, told the media. “Jonshel was feisty, jazzy, spoiled. It was her way or no way. Jonshel was like, ‘It’s going to be me.'”

Police investigators have identified surveillance camera images of a man wearing a ski mask and getting in a maroon-colored pickup truck and have asked residents to help find the man and vehicle.

Anyone with information about the shooting, or the man and truck should 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.

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