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Remembering Louis Gossett Jr.

Photo from Getty Images

Louis Gossett Jr. embarked on his illustrious stage career at the age of 17, showcasing his talent in a wide array of critically acclaimed plays and prominent films. In the late 1950s, he was presented with an opportunity to join the New York Knicks, which he declined in favor of a role in the esteemed Broadway production of "A Raisin in the Sun." This iconic play chronicles the challenges faced by an African-American family in southern Chicago as they strive for better financial prospects.

During that same time, Gossett made a notable appearance in the original cast of Jean Genet's "The Blacks," a groundbreaking off-Broadway production that captivated audiences for over 1,400 performances. In 1977, he portrayed the character Fiddler in the landmark television miniseries "Roots," which aired for eight consecutive nights, captivating a record-breaking audience of 140 million viewers. His exceptional performance in the series earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama or Comedy Series.

Photo from Paramount Pictures/Allstar

In 1982, Louis Gossett Jr. delivered a memorable portrayal as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in Taylor Hackford's cinematic masterpiece "An Officer and a Gentleman." This role not only secured him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, marking him as the first African-American to achieve this honor in a supporting role, but also garnered him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture.

Despite grappling with a debilitating illness in the 1990s and early 2000s, Gossett defied medical expectations after receiving aprognosis of six months to live. Pressing on with his acting career, his final cinematic appearance was in 2023 in Blitz Bazawule's musical adaptation of "The Color Purple." Tragically, a few months following the film's premiere, Louis Gossett Jr. succumbed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 87.


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