Child Star Jonshel Alexander, Who Co-Starred in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ Was Fatally Shot

From left, Jonshel Alexander and Quvenzhane Wallis at an afterparty for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" in 2012. Image: Skip Bolen/Getty Images for Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Jonshel Alexander, who co-starred in the Academy Award-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, was fatally shot Saturday night in New Orleans, NOLA reported. She was 22.

According to authorities, Alexander and another man were shot in a vehicle in the 1500 block of North Claiborne Avenue around 9 p.m. She was declared dead on the scene while the man drove himself to the hospital.

Shelly Alexander, Jonshel’s mother, remembered that her daughter was full of life and had a magnetic personality.

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

A New Orleans native, at the age of 12, Alexander was cast as Joy Strong in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a 2012 drama that explores the happenings of a community living in the Louisiana bayou and the children who live there.

Benh Zeitlin, director of the film, was so impressed by Alexander that he developed scenes tailor made for her. Although she was too old to play the lead role, which went to 6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, she shined in her supporting role, he noted.

Zeitlin described Alexander as an “absolute one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, force-of-nature human being” and she contributed to some of her own lines in the film.

“We incorporated a part into the film that was very much inspired by her,” Zeitlin recalled. “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 film went on to garner critical acclaim, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture. 

When Zeitlin was informed of Alexander’s death, he was said to be “devastated,” and has been in contact with the family since hearing the news.

Investigators stated they have located a vehicle of interest, a maroon pickup truck that twas used by the suspect. Also, the police believe they have identified a person of interest in the crime.

In addition to her mother, Alexander is survived by her 1-year-old daughter, De-vynne Robinson.

We extend our prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Jonshel Alexander.

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