Famed Hollywood actor Louis Gosset Jr. dead at age 87

 March 30, 2024

Famed Hollywood actor Louis Gosset Jr., perhaps best known for his roles in the film "An Officer and a Gentleman" and the TV miniseries "Roots," passed away at the age of 87, the Associated Press reported.

With his portrayal of U.S. Marine Gunnery Sargeant Emil Foley in "An Officer and a Gentleman," Gosset became the first black man to win an Oscar award in the Best Supporting Actor category, while his role of Fiddler in "Roots" earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Leader Actor in a Drama.

Rose above racism to become a major star

The AP reported that Gosset's death was confirmed by his cousin, Neal Gosset, who said that he'd died Friday morning in Santa Monica, California, though no cause of death was revealed.

His cousin fondly remembered Gosset as being a joke-teller who often used dignity and humor to combat the racism he faced on occasion during the first few decades of his career in the entertainment industry that began on Broadway in the 1950s and transitioned to Hollywood in the 1960s.

Neal said of Louis, "Never mind the awards, never mind the glitz and glamor, the Rolls-Royces and the big houses in Malibu. It’s about the humanity of the people that he stood for."

Gossett, who was married and divorced from three women over the years, is survived by a son from his second marriage, Satie, as well as a daughter, Sharron, whom he adopted at age 7 after he saw her in a TV show about children in bad situations.

From athlete to actor

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gosset's family said in a statement, "It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning. We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time."

Gosset was born in 1936 in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up as an athlete who excelled in running track and playing baseball and basketball, even earning an invitation for a tryout at the New York Knicks' rookie camp.

It was during a year in high school that he sat out a basketball season with an injury that he found his love of acting, which led to his teacher encouraging him to take on a role in a Broadway show in 1953 that won him an award at age 17 and charted his future career path as an actor, albeit after studying for several years at New York University on a drama scholarship.

His big break in Hollywood came in 1961 when he starred in the film adaptation of the Broadway show "A Raisin in the Sun" which he had also starred in to critical acclaim alongside legendary actor Sidney Poitier.

A legendary and decades-long award-winning acting career

Per Gosset's IMDb page, the actor was credited with at least 200 appearances in films and TV series, with another 12 productions yet to be released, and also had 14 producer credits to his name.

He appeared in dozens of well-known TV series, often just for a single episode, but held recurring roles on shows like "The Young Rebels," "Mod Squad," "The Rockford Files," "Backstairs at the White House," "The Lazarus Syndrome," "The Powers of Matthew Star," "Return to Lonesome Dove," "Stargate SG-1," "Hap and Leonard," and "Watchmen," among others.

Aside from "An Officer and a Gentleman," some of Gosset's better-known film appearances included the "Iron Eagle" franchise, "Enemy Mine," "Diggstown," and the recent remake of "The Color Purple," among dozens more.

He also provided narration and voice-over work for several documentaries, animated series and films, and video games. Over his 60-year career, Gosset was nominated for 28 different awards of varying prestige and earned 19 wins overall in recognition of his work.

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