NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — An actress who just recently made her debut on the big screen died in her Nashville apartment Thursday morning.

Shonka Dukureh, 44, was found dead in the bedroom of her Kothe Way apartment.

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Shonka Dukureh
Shonka Dukureh (Courtesy: Warner Bros./RCA Records)

One of her two children found her unresponsive and ran to a neighbor for help. The neighbor called 911 just before 9:30 a.m.

Officials say no foul play is evident, but Dukureh’s death is unclassified, pending autopsy results.

Dukureh is best known for her role in “Elvis,” released earlier this year. She played Big Mama Thornton in the movie.

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The Elvis biopic was released on June 24, 2022, and soared past Top Gun during its opening weekend. It took the #1 spot as well, making over $31M.

Condolences began pouring in following Dukureh’s death.

“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. 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. We send all our love and support to Shonka’s children and family at this time.”

Baz Luhrmann, ‘Elvis’ Director

Leaders in Middle Tennessee also shared their sentiments about the actress. Nashville Mayor John Cooper said she attended Fisk University.

“My deepest condolences to the family of Shonka Dukureh. Shonka graduated from @Fisk1866 and called Nashville home for many years. Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day.”

John Cooper, Mayor of Nashville

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Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church in Hermitage released a statement mourning the loss of their beloved member

Today, we cannot find the words to express our grief over the sudden transition of Shonka Dukureh. Shonka was a national treasure. She was an actress, jazz, and gospel phenomenon. She was an amazing friend, sister, teacher, and praise and worship leader. She was a constant reminder to former Greater Grace Temple Community Church and to Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church, that if you had breath in your body packaged with faith in God, it’s never too late to fulfill your dreams. Her ability to break barriers cross-culturally, socio-economically, artistically, and musically was priceless. Shonka’s life served as evidence that the Word suddenly still has power, and we are all better because of her presence in our lives. “Shonka leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of the former Greater Grace Temple Community Church, Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church, the Nation, and all those that loved her. I will always remember her incredible spirit and unforgettable voice singing: “So Amazing.” She was more than a member; she was my sister. Going to miss her, is an understatement. I am at a loss for words,” said Pastor Breonus M. Mitchell, Sr.

Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church