'Elvis' actress Shonka Dukureh dead at 44

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A singer and actress who appeared this year as blues singer Big Mama Thornton in Baz Luhrmann's film Elvis has been found dead in her Nashville apartment.

The body of Shonka Dukureh, 44, was found on Thursday after one of her two young children found her unresponsive and ran to get a neighbour, who called 911, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in a statement.

Police said no foul play was suspected and that an autopsy had been scheduled to determine the cause of death.

Dukureh starred alongside Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker in the film released in June.

Variety reported that Elvis marked the first major film role for Dukureh, who was born in North Carolina.

Luhrmann paid tribute to Dukureh on Instagram.

"A special light went out today and all of the Elvis movie family are heartbroken by the loss of Shonka Dukureh," he wrote.

"From the moment she came into our world, Shonka brought joy, spirit and of course her voice and her music.

"I, along with the entire Elvis cast, crew and musical collaborators, feel truly blessed to have had time with her. We send all our love and support to Shonka's children and family at this time."

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.

Dukureh received a bachelor's degree in theatre and a master's degree in education.

According to her website, Dukureh had plans to release her first full-length album soon.

"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'n roll music revolution," she wrote on her website.

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