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‘Roots’ Star Louis Gossett Jr. Dead at 87

Actor Louis Gossett Jr died from natural causes Thursday night in Santa Monica, California.

His nephew confirmed the news to The Associated Press, according to

Gossett is best known for his roles in the 1977 miniseries “Roots,” and the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.

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He won an Oscar Award for his realistic portrayal of a tough drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman, also starring Richard Gere.

Gossett was the first Black person to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

The New York native got his acting start on Broadway in Take a Giant Step in 1953. He was still a student in high school at the time.

“‘They’re looking for a young, Black kid to play a lead in a Broadway show called Take a Giant Step. They can’t find anybody in the business, so they’re going to the high schools. ‘Tell your mother to take you down there.’ So, that’s how I got in show business,” he told Bob Costas in 1991.

Gossett made his film debut in 1961’s A Raisin in the Sun. “I was at rookie training for the [New York] Knicks when I got a call from Lorraine Hansberry to be a part of A Raisin in the Sun,” Gossett told

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“They said the part comes with a $700 per diem, more money than most professional athletes had in the bank at the time. I put the basketball down, and the rest is history,” he added.

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His next breakthrough role came in 1977, when he played Fiddler in Roots. The role earned him an Emmy award for outstanding lead actor in a single appearance in a drama or comedy series.

In 2023, Gossett played Mister Johnson in The Color Purple. In 2024, he said he was “still here” with no plans to retire. “God must have something left for me to do,” he told People.

Gossett is survived by his two adult sons, Satie and Sharron.




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