Louis Gossett, first African-American Oscar winner for a supporting role, is no more

(Los Angeles) Louis Gossett Jr., the first African-American man to win a supporting actor Oscar and Emmy winner for his role in the television miniseries Roots, is dead. He was 87 years old.

Gossett’s first cousin, Neal L. Gossett, told the Associated Press that the actor died in Santa Monica, California. A family statement said Mr. Gossett died Friday morning. No cause of death has been revealed.

Mr. Gossett’s cousin remembered a man who marched with Nelson Mandela and who was also a great joke teller, a parent who confronted and fought racism with dignity and humor.

Louis Gossett always viewed his early career as a reverse Cinderella story, with success finding him at a young age and propelling him forward, towards his Oscar for film Officer and Gentleman.

Mr. Gossett rose to prominence on the small screen as Fiddler in the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries Roots, which depicted the atrocities of slavery on television. The cast included Ben Vereen, LeVar Burton and John Amos.

Mr. Gossett became the third African-American person nominated for an Academy Award in the supporting actor category in 1983. He won for his portrayal of the intimidating Navy drill instructor in Officer and Gentleman alongside 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 an African-American actor,” he wrote in his 2010 memoir, An Actor and a Gentleman (An Actor and a Gentleman).


Louis Gossett Jr. won an Emmy for his role in the TV miniseries Roots.

He had obtained his first role in the production of You won’t take it with you from his high school in Brooklyn, while he was sidelined from the basketball team due to injury.

His English teacher urged him to go to Manhattan to audition for Take a Giant Step. He got the role and made his Broadway debut in 1953, at the age of 16.

Mr. Gossett attended New York University on a basketball and drama scholarship. He was soon acting and singing on television shows hosted by David Susskind, Ed Sullivan, Red Buttons, Merv Griffin, Jack Paar and Steve Allen.

Mr. Gossett became friends with actor James Dean, and studied acting with Marilyn Monroe, Martin Landau and Steve McQueen in an annex of the Actors Studio, taught by Frank Silvera.

The actor first went to Hollywood in 1961 to direct the film version ofA Grape in the Sun. He had bitter memories of that trip, staying in a cockroach-infested motel that was one of the few places African Americans were admitted.

In 1968, he returned to Hollywood for a major role in Companions in NightmareNBC’s first TV movie starring Melvyn Douglas, Anne Baxter and Patrick O’Neal.

This time, Mr. Gossett had a room at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Universal Studios rented him a convertible. While returning to the hotel after picking up the car, he was stopped by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s officer who ordered him to turn off the radio and raise the roof of the car before letting him go.

Minutes later, he was stopped by eight police officers, who made him lean against the car and open the trunk while they called the rental car agency before letting him go.

“Although I understood that I had no choice but to endure this abuse, it was a terrible way to be treated, a humiliating way to feel,” Mr. Gossett wrote in his memoir. I realized this was happening because I was African American and had shown off with a nice car – which, according to them, I was not allowed to drive. »

In the late 1990s, Mr. Gossett said he was stopped by police on the Pacific Coast Highway while driving his restored 1986 Rolls Royce Corniche II. The officer told him he looked like someone they were looking for, but the officer recognized Mr. Gossett and left.

He founded the Eracism Foundation to help create a world where racism does not exist.

The impact of an Oscar

Louis Cameron Gossett was born on May 27, 1936, in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, to Louis Sr., a doorman, and Hellen, a nurse. He later added Jr. to his name to honor his father.

“The Oscar gave me the opportunity to choose good roles in films like enemy, Sadat Or Iron Eagle said Mr. Gossett in Dave Karger’s book 2024, 50 Oscar Nights (50 Oscar parties).

He said his statuette was in storage.

“I’m going to donate it to a library so I don’t have to watch it,” he says in the book. I need to free myself from it. »

Mr. Gossett has appeared in television films such as The Story of Satchel Paige, Backstairs at the White House, The Josephine Baker Storyfor which he won another Golden Globe, and Roots Revisited.

But he added that winning an Oscar didn’t change the fact that all of his roles were supporting roles.

He played a headstrong patriarch in the 2023 version of the feature film The Color Purple.

Mr. Gossett struggled with alcohol and cocaine addictions for years after his Oscar win. He went to rehab, where he was diagnosed with toxic mold syndrome, which he attributed to his Malibu home.

In 2010, Mr Gossett announced he was suffering from prostate cancer, which he said had been detected at an early stage. In 2020, he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

He is survived by his sons Satie, a producer-director from his second marriage, and Sharron, a chef he adopted after seeing the seven-year-old on a television show about children in difficult situations. His first cousin is the actor Robert Gossett.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

Leave a Comment