Police confirmed to the Associated Press that Alexander and a man were shot inside a vehicle this weekend. Alexander was pronounced dead at the scene, while the man, whose name was not released, was able to drive himself to the hospital for treatment.
Alexander played the character Joy Strong in Beasts of the Southern Wild at age 12. The film, directed by Benh Zeitlin, told of a poor Louisiana bayou community through the lens of Hushpuppy (Wallis).
Skip Bolen/Getty Images Jonshel Alexander and Quvenzhané Wallis at the New Orleans premiere of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild.'
Wallis shared photos on Instagram of her and Alexander as kids making the film.
"when [we] were filming we were always together and i wish i could go back in time so i can see you again," the actress, now 18 years old, wrote in a tribute. "i love you. you will be missed by so many."
Zeitlin cast Louisiana natives to play characters in his movie, which received four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.
In a statement to the AP, the filmmaker said he "incorporated a part into the film that was very much inspired by" Alexander.
"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."
Everett Collection Twelve-year-old Jonshel Alexander with the cast of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
The New Orleans Advocate reports Alexander was the youngest of three children who, after graduating from high school, dedicated herself to the care of her 1-year-old daughter, De-vynne Robinson, while working as a hostess in restaurants.
"She brought life to everything," Alexander's mother, Shelly, told The New Orleans Advocate on Tuesday. "Jonshel was feisty, jazzy, spoiled. It was her way or no way. Jonshel was like, 'It's going to be me.'"