HomeUncategorizedLouis Gossett Jr., Officer and a Gentleman, Roots Actor, Dead at 87

Louis Gossett Jr., Officer and a Gentleman, Roots Actor, Dead at 87

Louis Gossett Jr., best known for his acclaimed roles in An Officer and a Gentleman and Roots, has died at 87 years old. He was also the first Black man to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Gossett’s first cousin Neal L. Gossett revealed to The Associated Press that the actor died on Thursday night (March 28th) in Santa Monica. No cause of death was given, but Gossett announced that he had prostate cancer in 2010.

Born May 27th, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York, Gossett Jr. began acting in high school and debuted on Broadway when he was just 17 years old. In 1959, he played the role of George Murchison in A Raisin in the Sun, making his feature film debut a few years later in the movie adaptation of the play.

After returning to New York City and becoming a Broadway star, Gossett Jr. landed a breakout TV role in the 1977 ABC miniseries Roots. He earned an Emmy for his portrayal of Fiddler, an older slave who mentors Kunta Kinte (played by LeVar Burton) by teaching him English.

In 1981, Gossett Jr. starred in the made-for-television biopic Don’t Look Back: The Story of Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige as the eponymous baseball great and also was nominated for an Emmy for his guest appearance on Palmerstown, U.S.A.

The following year, Gossett Jr. would play drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in Taylor Hackford’s An Officer and a Gentleman, training for 30 days at the Marine Corps Recruitment Division in preparation for the role. The performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, making him the second Black man overall to win an Academy Award after Sidney Poitier.

He went on to play the title role in the 1983 two-part miniseries Sadat, landing another Emmy nomination in the process, and supporting roles in action flicks like 1989’s The Punisher and the Iron Eagle series.

Other notable projects include Enemy Mine,  Toy SoldiersBlue ChipsStargate SG-1, and A Gathering of Old Men.

A prolific actor even into his mid-80s, Gossett Jr. most recently had standout roles in the 2019 HBO limited series Watchmen and the 2023 musical film The Color Purple.

He is survived by his sons Satie and Sharron.

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