Jonshel Alexander, a Louisiana native known for her role in the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild, was shot and killed in New Orleans this weekend. The young woman was just 22 years old and police continue to investigate her tragic death.
The 22-year-old leaves behind a 1-year-old daughter, De-vynne Robinson.
Though it’s still unclear what happened leading up to the shooting, reports claimed that Alexander and an unidentified man were sitting in a car together in the 7th Ward of New Orleans when an unknown suspect came up to the vehicle. The suspect allegedly shot both passengers, though their motive is still under investigation.
Police officers were called to the 1500 block of North Claiborne Avenue and Columbus Street at around 9 p.m. Saturday where they pronounced Jonshel Alexander dead on the scene. The man who accompanied Alexander in the car later drove himself to the hospital. He has not yet been identified, authorities said.
The young girl’s family claimed the man was a friend of Alexander’s. When they heard he had been shot they immediately called her. When they didn’t get an answer, they knew something was wrong.
While police have not identified a suspect, authorities claimed they have a possible vehicle of interest. Police are currently looking for a maroon pickup truck that they believe was used by the killer.
Friends and family are now mourning the loss of their loved one and remember her as a fun-loving girl who could light up any room she walked into.
“She would light up any room. She was feisty, she was jazzy, she always wanted to be girly,” her mom Shelley Alexander said. Her mother said that when she got the phone call that her daughter was dead, she dropped to her knees. Her father, Johnny Alexander, found out at work and was devastated by the news. The victim’s friends and family are now planning the 22-year-old’s funeral.
Jonshel Alexander made her acting debut in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a 2012 Oscar-nominated film that told the story of a Louisiana bayou community and the children that lived there. The film cast many unknown actors from Louisiana and, according to Alexander’s mother, the little girl was sure she was going to get a part.
She was like, ‘I’m going to be in this movie,'” her mother recalled. “They fell in love with Jonshel.” The 12-year-old was too old for the lead role, but according to the film’s director, they loved her so much that they created a role just for her. The young girl beat out over 4,000 people who auditioned for the film.
Jonshel Alexander played the character of Joy Strong, and Director Benh Zeitlin said the young girl was a force of nature. “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 Alexander was. Her character in the film is named Joy Strong, which always seemed like a perfect description of Alexander. She was a really bright burning light.”
The film became a hit and it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie was also nominated for four Oscars and four Academy Awards.
After Alexander’s death, lead actor Quvenzhane’ Wallis, who played Hushpuppy in the film, took to Instagram to share her memories of the young actor. She posted a photo of the two of them during filming and said, “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.”
After filming ended, the Beasts of the Southern Wild actress never acted again. She became devoted to dance, cheerleading, modeling, and the arts during her time at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter High School. She graduated in 2017. After graduating, Jonshel Alexander worked as a hostess and focused on raising her young daughter.
Police continue to investigate this horrific murder and are asking for the public’s help. Anyone with information can come forward and 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.