To date, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was Jonshel Alexander’s most high-profile cinematic credit. At just around 13 years of age, she delivered an impressive performance as Joy Strong that stands as a testament to her passion for her craft. Her mother recalled that “She was like, ‘I’m going to be in this movie,'” adding that director Benh Zeitlin and his team “fell in love with Jonshel.” In fact, Zeitlin referred to Alexander as an “absolute one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, force-of-nature human being.”
Her natural charisma and infectious energy prompted Zeitlin to create the character of Joy for her since she was too old to play the lead, Hushpuppy — a part that went to Quvenzhané Wallis. “We incorporated a part into the film that was very much inspired by her. So much of the character grew out of who Jonshel was…she was a really bright burning light,” Zeitlin said, adding that he was devastated to hear of her untimely death and has since contacted her family.
By all accounts, Jonshel Alexander was a wonderful person and genuine big-screen talent whose presence in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” only served to make the film better. She will be dearly missed.