Gunshil Alexander, onetime child actor who played a supporting role in the 2012 Academy Award-nominated filmShe was killed in a weekend shooting in her native Louisiana. She was 22 years old.
Police said Alexander and a man were shot dead in a car on Saturday in New Orleans, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. The unnamed man drove his car to the hospital for treatment.
Alexander leaves behind a one-year-old daughter, CBS affiliate WWLTV reports.
At the age of 12, Alexander played Joy Strong in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a drama filmed near Houma that tells the story of a poor Louisiana Bayou community struggling to survive. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Louisiana Natives are cast for lead roles, auditioning for more than 4,000 actors before completing casting. Shelley Alexander said her daughter charmed the filmmakers and came out on top.
“She was like, ‘I’m going to be in this movie,'” her mother recalls. “They fell in love with Gunshell.”
Alexander was too old to star in the movie Hushpuppy, which went to 6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis. But Zeitlin said he was captivated by Alexander, calling her “a unique, unforgettable human being, by the power of nature” and casting her in a supporting role.
“We got a part in the movie that was so inspiring for her,” Zeitlin said. “A lot of lines were written by her, and a lot of the character grew out of Gunshell’s character. Her character in the movie was named Joey Strong, which always seemed like a perfect description of Gunshell. She was really cool. Light.”
Zeitlin said he was stunned when he learned of her death and was in contact with her family.
The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported that Alexander was the youngest of three children. After graduating from high school, she worked as a hostess in restaurants and devoted herself to taking care of her one-year-old daughter, Dee Vin Robinson.
Her mother Shelley Alexander told WWLTV, “She would light up any room. She was feisty, she was jazzy, she always wanted to be girly.”
Meanwhile, investigators are looking for a person interested in the shooting and have requested the public’s help to obtain any information in the case.