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‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ actor Jonshel Alexander shot and killed at 22

The actor, who played a supporting role in the 2012 Oscar-nominated film, died at the scene of the incident

By Hollie Geraghty

Jonshel Alexander wears a blue jumper in 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
Jonshel Alexander in 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'. (Photo: Searchlight).

Former child actor Jonshel Alexander, who played a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated 2012 film ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, was shot and killed on Saturday (November 27) at the age of 22.

Police said Alexander was with a man inside a car in New Orleans, Louisiana at 9pm when an assailant allegedly shot both of them [via Associated Press].

Alexander was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics while the man, whose name has not been released, drove to hospital for treatment.

At the age of 12, ​​Alexander played Joy Strong in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, a fantasy-drama about a six-year-old girl (Quvenzhané Wallis) from Louisiana who searches for her lost mother.

Director Benh Zeitlin cast Louisiana natives for the film, with more than 4,000 people auditioning.

The late actor’s mother, Shelly Alexander, recalled her daughter making an impression on the filmmakers. “She was like, ‘I’m going to be in this movie,'” she recalled, according to AP. “They fell in love with Jonshel.” 

Alexander was too old to play the lead at the time but director Zeitlin cast her in a supporting role, describing her as an “absolute one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, force-of-nature human being”.

“We incorporated a part into the film that was very much inspired by her,” he 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.”

The director said that he was devastated to hear the news of her death.

Alexander’s mother told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate on Tuesday (November 30): “She brought life to everything.” 

“Jonshel was feisty, jazzy, spoiled. It was her way or no way. Jonshel was like, ‘It’s going to be me.’”

Investigators are currently seeking a person of interest.