Singer and actress Shonka Dukureh, who starred as blues singer Big Mama Thornton in the film Elvis, has been found dead at her home in Nashville, Tennessee.
The 44-year-old was found unresponsive by one of her two young children who she lived in an apartment with, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in a statement.
No foul play is suspected and an autopsy is yet to be carried out to establish the cause of death, police added.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper tweeted his condolences to Dukureh’s family, saying that she had graduated from Fisk University in the city that she had called home for many years.
The actor, who shared the stage at Coachella this year with Doja Cat, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theatre.
She went on to achieve a master’s degree in education at Trevecca Nazarene University, WPLN-FM reported.
Dukureh taught year two pupils for a while and then worked with inner city youth through after-school and summer programmes, she told the station in an interview last month.
She said those students reached out after seeing her in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic.
Luhrmann said “a special light went out today” and shared photographs on Instagram which included an image of him kissing Dukureh on the forehead while on the set of Elvis.
He wrote: “All of the Elvis movie family are heartbroken by the loss of Shonka Dukureh.
“From the moment she came into our world, Shonka brought joy, spirit and of course her voice and her music.
“Whenever she was on set, on stage or even just in the room, everyone always felt uplifted.
“Shonka was just starting to find a larger audience for her tremendous talent, and I got to see her uplift whole crowds of people at Coachella and beyond.
“A favorite word of Shonka’s, in daily use, was “blessings,” and I, along with the entire Elvis cast, crew and musical collaborators, feel truly blessed to have had time with her.”
The 59-year-old added that the cast and crew of Elvis were sending their “love and support” to her children and family.
Dukureh starred alongside Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker in the 2022 film.
Variety reported that Elvis marked the first major film role for Dukureh, who was born in North Carolina.