Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar, dies at 87 

Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar and an Emmy winner for his role in the seminal TV miniseries “Roots,” has died. He was 87. 

Gossett’s cousin, Neal L. Gossett, confirmed his death to CBS News. The actor died Thursday night in Santa Monica, California, The Associated Press reported. No cause of death was revealed. 

“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,” his family said in a statement Friday. 

Gossett always thought of his early career as a reverse Cinderella story, with success finding him from an early age and propelling him forward, toward his Academy Award for “An Officer and a Gentleman.” 

He earned his first acting credit in his Brooklyn high school’s production of “You Can’t Take It with You” while he was sidelined from the basketball team with an injury. 

“I was hooked — and so was my audience,” he wrote in his 2010 memoir “An Actor and a Gentleman.” 

His English teacher urged him to go into Manhattan to try out for “Take a Giant Step.” He got the part and made his Broadway debut in 1953 at age 16. 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/louis-gossett-jr-dies-first-black-man-to-win-supporting-actor-oscar-dead-age-87/

“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,” his cousin said. 

Louis Gossett always thought of his early career as a reverse Cinderella story, with success finding him from an early age and propelling him forward, toward his Academy Award for “An Officer and a Gentleman.” 

Gossett broke through on the small screen as Fiddler in the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots,” which depicted the atrocities of slavery on TV. The sprawling cast included Ben Vereen, LeVar Burton and John Amos. 

Gossett became the third Black Oscar nominee in the supporting actor category in 1983. He won for his performance as the intimidating Marine drill instructor in “An Officer and a Gentleman” opposite Richard Gere and Debra Winger. He also won a Golden Globe for the same role. 

“More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a Black actor,” he wrote in his 2010 memoir, “An Actor and a Gentleman.” 

A lucky break 

He had earned his first acting credit in his Brooklyn high school’s production of “You Can’t Take It with You” while he was sidelined from the basketball team with an injury. 

https://www.npr.org/2024/03/29/1241607342/louis-gossett-jr-dies-black-oscar-winner-officer-and-a-gentlemen-roots

“Lou was set to play the role of my grandfather in the proposed feature film of my life. I will miss my friend.” — Singer Dionne Warwick in a statement. 

“From ‘Roots’ to ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ to ‘The Color Purple’ and now beyond, Lou was always an amazing artist and giving human being to me.” — Actor Sheryl Lee Ralph on X. 

“I loved Lou. We did ‘The Choirboys’ in an ensemble, and then later starred together in ‘Diggstown.’ That experience cemented a lifelong friendship. I had always admired his fabulous talent, but grew to admire his modest demeanor more. A true gentleman.” — Actor James Woods on X. 

“Louis was a groundbreaker, a brilliant, kind man, and an incendiary presence on screen. Each of us was lucky to have him.” — Actor and director Lee Grant on X. 

“Your incredible talent and unforgettable performances will forever inspire generations to come. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. You will be deeply missed.” — NAACP on X. 

“In our eyes, you were a LEADING man despite your many inspiring roles as supporting characters. Thank you for your undeniable talent. Rest In Power!” — Trial lawyer Ben Crump on X. 

“As a city, we are grateful for the privilege of having had Louis Gossett Jr. among us, and we join together in honoring his life and contributions.” — Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens in a statement. 

https://apnews.com/article/louis-gossett-jr-reactions-d1d32159741be855ba3e0401654f2c0a

Gossett was disappointed that bigger film parts did not follow his Oscar victory.“I was left with a lot of time on my hands” after the Academy Award, Gossett told The New York Times in 1989. “I thought I’d get a lot of offers — and they didn’t come.” 

“I let myself become bitter, resentful,” he added. “I was my own worst enemy. I said to myself, ‘What more can I do? Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel?’ I started to self-destruct.” 

He started to abuse alcohol, cocaine and marijuana. “I had an Oscar, an Emmy, and yet I had this big hole in my soul,” Gossett told the Times. 

Eventually, Gossett entered a residential drug-treatment program in Los Angeles and stopped using drugs, according to the profile in the Times. The path to sobriety was “very humbling and necessary, a very positive time,” he said. 

Gossett was a ubiquitous and dependable presence on the big and small screens for decades to come — quietly commanding, sometimes intimidating, sometimes soulful. 

He acted in genre-spanning films such as “Jaws 3-D” (1983), “Enemy Mine” (1985), “The Principal” (1987), “The Punisher” (1989), “Toy Soldiers” (1991), “Diggstown” (1992), “Blue Chips” (1994) and a string of under-the-radar indie movies from 2000-2010. 

He frequently cropped up on television, guest-starring on episodes of “Touched by an Angel,” “ER,” “Psych,” “Boardwalk Empire.” He recently played a small but pivotal role as a legendary attorney accused of sexual misconduct on the Paramount+ series “The Good Fight.” 

“Watchmen,” Damon Lindelof’s celebrated limited series based on the landmark DC Comics series of the same name, gave Gossett one of his most distinctive late-period roles. He was the enigmatic Will Reeves, grandfather of the show’s hero, Angela Abar, played by Regina King. 

Gossett’s final run of roles included Ol’ Mister Johnson in the 2023 film musical version of “The Color Purple” and a voice part in the John Krasinski-directed fantasy “IF,” scheduled for release in May. 

https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/movies/louis-gossett-jr-oscar-winning-actor-officer-gentleman-roots-dies-87-rcna14835

8 thoughts on “Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar, dies at 87 ”
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