“Elvis” actor Shonka Dukureh was found dead Thursday in the Nashville, Tennessee, apartment she shared with her two young children, police said.
She was 44 years old.
Dukureh, a blues singer, played Big Mama Thornton in the blockbuster biopic about Elvis Presley’s rise to stardom released last month.
One of the children found her unresponsive and went to the apartment of a neighbour, who called 911.
Police added that there were no signs of foul play.
Elvis director Baz Luhrmann has paid tribute to the late Shonka Dukureh following news of her death, with him describing her as having had “tremendous talent”.
Baz, 59, took to Instagram to pay his respects, writing: “A special light went out today and 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,” he further wrote.
The post was shared by actor Austin Butler who portrayed Elvis in the film.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper shared his condolences Thursday saying: “Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day.”
The actor and singer, who also shared the stage at Coachella this year with Doja Cat, had a theatre degree from Fisk University. She also had an education degree from Trevecca Nazarene, radio station WPLN-FM reported.
In an interview with the station last month, Dukureh said she had previously worked as a second grade teacher. She worked with inner-city youth through after-school and summer programs.
She said those students reached out after seeing her in Elvis.