Suspect sought after ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ actor, 22, killed in New Orleans shooting

A suspect is being sought in the shooting death of 22-year-old Jonshel Alexander, who appeared...
A suspect is being sought in the shooting death of 22-year-old Jonshel Alexander, who appeared in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."(Source: NOPD/Twitter)
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 8:53 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE/Gray News) - A former child actor that played a prominent role in the 2012 movie “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was killed in a shooting that occurred in the Treme over the weekend, according to information from the New Orleans Police Department.

Jonshel Alexander, 22, was shot in a vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene, the Associated Press reported. A man in the vehicle was wounded. His name was not released.

Police are searching for a suspect, who they believe was driving a red truck.

Alexander, 22, was 12 years old when she was cast in Benh Zeitlin’s low-budget yet visually stunning motion picture filmed in Montegut and areas around Terrebonne Parish, WVUE reported.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a story of a father and daughter living in a mythical area of Louisiana known as “The Bathtub,” and it is threatened by the disappearing coastline.

Another New Orleans-area child actor, Quvenzhané Wallis, was 6 years old when she was cast as the film’s lead, a protagonist named Hushpuppy, and was the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Oscar.

Alexander played the role of Joy Strong in the film, a character that shared prominent screentime with Wallis, serving as the protagonist’s close friend.

Zeitlin told the Associated Press Alexander was as an “absolute one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, force-of-nature human being” when he cast her for the supporting role.

The film, which cast all South Louisiana actors with little to no acting experience, was nominated for four Academy Awards: best picture, best director, best actress and best adapted screenplay.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” also won the grand jury prize at Sundance.

Former co-star Dwight Henry said all who knew and loved Alexander are devastated.

“She lit up the screen, and it hurts me. I’m telling you it hurts me to my heart. When I think about I’ve been crying all night,” Henry said.

Henry knew Alexander way before their Silver Screen debut together. Her family lived next to his bakery on St. Claude Avenue.

“I remember like it was yesterday, Jonshel walked into a donut shop like she owned the place, and she literally walked behind the counter, grabbed a handful of the doughnut holes, put them in a bag. I looked at her. She looked at me and she just walked out the door,” he said.

That made it even more special when the filmmakers decided to cast him as Wink in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” alongside Alexander.

Henry said she was a fireball commanding the set, so smart and so beautiful. Looking at set photos brings tears to his eyes.

“Special moments ... memories that I’ll never forget, you know, because certain things, you can forget memories, but you know, things like this when you have pictures of her. Man ... I’m always looking at this and remember Jonshel, you know. I remember this thing, this one scene here like it was yesterday ... you know. She was so special,” he said.

Alexander leaves behind a 1-year-old daughter along with her family that Henry said is just crushed right now.

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