Jonshel Alexander, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Actress, Dead at 22 in Shooting

The former child actress was cast in the Oscar-nominated film when she was 12.

Jonshel Alexander has died. The former child actress was shot and killed in her native Louisiana on Saturday, multiple outlets report. She was 22.

Police have told news outlets that Alexander was inside a car with a man on Saturday night at 9 p.m., when a person allegedly shot them both. Alexander was pronounced dead at the scene, while the man, whose name was not released, drove himself to the hospital, per the outlets.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that investigators have located a vehicle of interest, a maroon pickup truck that they suspect was used by the killer.

When she was 12, Alexander was cast in the supporting role of Joy Strong in Beasts of the Southern Wild, beating out thousands of other kids for the part. The film, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, focused on a poor bayou community, and cast non-actor, native Louisianans in many roles.

"She brought life to everything," Alexander's mother, Shelly Alexander, said, according to the Times-Picayune. "Jonshel was feisty, jazzy, spoiled. It was her way or no way. Jonshel was like, 'It's going to be me.' She was like, 'I’m going to be in this movie.' [The filmmakers] fell in love with Jonshel."

The same outlet reports that director Benh Zeitlin remembered Alexander 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. A lot of the lines were written by her, and so much of the character grew out of who Jonshel was," he said. "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."

After graduating high school, Alexander, the youngest of three children, worked as a hostess in restaurants and dedicated herself to the care of her 1-year-old daughter, De-vynne Robinson, per the Times-Picayune.

Police ask that anyone with information about the vehicle, individual or the killing call homicide detective Brittany Kimbrough at 504-658-5300 or Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans Inc. anonymously at 504-822-1111 or 877-903-7867.