Shonka Dukureh, Big Mama Thornton in 'Elvis,' found dead in her Nashville apartment

Shonka Dukureh as Big Mama Thornton in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “Elvis."
Shonka Dukureh as Big Mama Thornton in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “Elvis."

"Elvis" actress and Blues singer Shonka Dukureh was found dead in her Nashville apartment Thursday, the Metro Nashville Police Department said. She was 44.

Dukureh was found in the bedroom of the apartment she shared with her two children, police said. The actress recently starred in her breakout role as R&B singer and songwriter Big Mama Thornton in Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis."

One of Dukureh's children found her unresponsive and went to a neighbor's apartment for help, according to police. The neighbor called 911 at 9:27 a.m., police said.

Police said they do not suspect foul play in her death. The medical examiner is currently working to identify the cause of death, an MNPD spokesperson said.

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Dukureh's first major acting role in "Elvis"

The performing artist played her first major film role as Big Mama Thornton, a task she did not take lightly.

"[Big Mama Thornton] was really raw with what she did and very honest and truthful and [made] music as she felt it. And I could totally relate to that," noted Dukureh.

"I was very aware and wanting to really be intentional about making sure I was paying respect, respecting her, respecting her legacy, respecting her spirit, respecting everything about what she brought to music and understanding that I'm able to do it because she's done it and laid that foundation."

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Originally interested in pursuing education, the teacher turned Hollywood star was set to release her first studio album this summer, according to her website.

“The project is a tribute to the blues music genre in celebration of those fierce unsung pioneering artists and musicians who paved the way for the rock and roll music revolution," Dukureh said.

Dukureh — a Charlotte, North Carolina native and Nashville resident — graduated from Fisk University with a bachelor's degree in theater. She also held a master's degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University.

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Shonka Dukureh, Big Mama Thornton in 'Elvis,' found dead in Nashville