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

Louis Gossett Jr., who with his iconic role in An Officer and a Gentleman became the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, died on Thursday at age 87, his nephew told the Associated Press.

No cause of death was disclosed. (In February 2010, Gossett revealed a prostate cancer diagnosis, but it was promptly treated.)

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Gossett’s other accolades include an Emmy (for his role as Fiddler in 1977’s well-watched Roots miniseries) and a pair of Golden Globes (for his aforementioned role as Officer and a Gentleman‘s Sgt. Foley and the 1991 TV-movie The Josephine Baker Story).

Born in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and a graduate of Abraham Lincoln High School, Gossett began his acting career in 1953 with a series of Broadway play roles, including the original staging of A Raisin in the Sun. He reprised his role as George Murchison in the 1961 film adaptation of same, then continued on the stage for about another decade, before segueing into more TV and film work, including the ABC adventure series The Young Rebels and episodes of Bonanza, Mod Squad and Good Times, followed by his Emmy-winning Roots role.

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Gossett’s TV credits also included the 1979 miniseries Backstairs at the White House (for which he earned an Emmy nomination), the ABC thriller The Lazarus Syndrome, The Powers of Matthew Star, the tile role in a 1983 Sadat miniseries (Emmy and Golden Globe nods) and the 1993 Return to Lonesome Dove miniseries.

in more recent years on TV, Gossett played the Jaffa politician Gerak on Stargate SG-1, voiced a drill sergeant in a 2006 episode of Family Guy and Lucius Fox in The Batman animated series, and did episodes of Touched by an Angel, Psych, Madam Secretary, CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 reboot (as Lou’s father), HBO’s Watchmen (for which he earned his eighth career Emmy nomination) and BET+’s Kingdom Business.

Gossett’s post-Foley film roles, meanwhile, included the sci-fi drama Enemy Mine, the Iron Eagle franchise, The Punisher (starring Dolph Lundgren) and the 2023 remake of The Color Purple (as Ol’ Mister).

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