Charlbi Dean, the South African model-turned-actress known for playing the assassin known as Syonide across nine episodes of The CW's Black Lightning television series, has died at the age of 32. According to The Hollywood Reporter — which received confirmation from her representative — Dean tragically passed away Monday at a New York City hospital from an "unexpected, sudden illness." Specifics of the illness were not disclosed at this time.
While speaking to Interview magazine in 2013, Dean recalled how her lifelong ambition was always to become a professional actress. "In South Africa, modeling was the closest thing to it," she explained. "Doing TV commercials was where I started." After filming Death Race 3: Inferno that same year, the actress took up boxing as a regular form of exercise. "I had to use weapons and trained for the fight scenes — I realized it was a fun way to keep fit."
Touching on her role as Syonide with Venice magazine in 2019, she said: "I had no idea I could play someone so evil."
Born Charlbi Dean Kriek in Cape Town in early February of 1990, she also appeared in projects like Spud, Blood in the Water, Elementary, Don't Sleep, An Interview with God, and, most recently, Triangle of Sadness, which took home the coveted Palme d'Or award at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Ruben Östlund, this satire of the super-wealthy co-stars Dean and Harris Dickinson (The King's Man) as a pair of oblivious and self-absorbed models who take part in a luxury cruise ironically steered by a pro-Marxist captain (Woody Harrelson).
"I thought it was ... important to bring a voice to models as silly as they may sound to many," Dean said during a Cannes press conference. "But girls and guys, myself included, travel from a really young age. I left home at 13, I went to Tokyo [and] I was still afraid of the dark. I was in a city where I didn't speak the language, I didn't know how to get around, and you're forced to grow up really, really quickly. People may look at you and be like, 'Oh, you're pretty, you're vapid, you're not layered, you're not multi-dimensional. But in fact, there's a hard exterior that you don't really get to know without actually realizing what people in the fashion industry go through and we get to show that, I think."
"Charlbi's sudden passing is a shock and a tragedy," Östlund wrote on Instagram. "It is an honor to have gotten to know and work with her. Charlbi had a care and sensitivity that lifted her colleagues and the entire film crew. The thought that she will not be by our side in the future makes me very sad."
Dean is survived by fiancé, Luke Volker.