‘Elvis’ actor and singer Shonka Dukureh found dead in her Nashville apartment

"Elvis" star Shonka Dukureh, as Big Mama Thornton. Kane Skennar / Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

American actor Shonka Dukureh, best known for her performance as Big Mama Thornton in Elvis, was found dead in her Nashville apartment on Thursday, police said.

Dukureh was 44 years old.

One of Dukureh’s two young children found her unresponsive in the bedroom of the apartment the family shared and ran to alert a neighbour, the Metro Nashville Police Department wrote in a statement.

The neighbour called police at 9:27 a.m., according to authorities.

Foul play is not suspected.

Currently, the cause of Dukureh’s death is “unclassified.” Police are awaiting autopsy results from the Medical Examiner’s Office.

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Elvis, the biopic about Elvis Presley’s career and subsequent stardom, was Dukureh’s first major motion picture. She was also included on the movie’s soundtrack, with her blues-style vocals featured on Doja Cat’s Vegas.

Elvis director Mark Anthony “Baz” Luhrmann shared three photos of Dukureh to Instagram.

“A special light went out today and all of the Elvis movie family are heartbroken by the loss of Shonka Dukureh,” Luhrmann wrote in the caption.

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“From the moment she came into our world, Shonka brought joy, spirit and of course her voice and her music,” he continued. “Whenever she was on set, on stage or even just in the room, everyone always felt uplifted.”

The mayor of Nashville, John Cooper, also shared his condolences on Twitter.

“Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day,” Cooper wrote.

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