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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

Louis Gossett Jr., History-Making Oscar and Emmy Winner, Dies at 87

Your Nerd Side with Fonseca:

Legendary actor Louis Gossett Jr. has passed away.

Per the Associated Press, Louis Gossett Jr. died on Friday morning in Santa Monica, California. No details were shared about a cause of death, though his passing was confirmed by the actor's cousin, Neal L. Gossett. He was 87 years old.

“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," Neal told the outlet, remembering his cousin and the ways he used dignity and humor to fight racism.

After beginning his career as an actor with stage work, Gossett rose to great fame with his role as Fiddler in the hit television miniseries Roots, which aired in 1977. For his performance, Gossett won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series. The acclaimed series was very acclaimed, and Gossett later spoke about his love for the character while looking back on the series in 2016.

"I was insulted when they decided to give me the part of Fiddler. He resembled Stepin Fetchit, the Uncle Tom part," Gossett said, per Parade. "But I said, 'OK, I will take it. I’ll do something.' Then doing the research I realized there’s no such thing as an Uncle Tom. If it wasn’t for Fiddler, we wouldn’t be in America. He was a survivor. He understood both cultures and knew how to maneuver to stay alive and be solvent. We needed that lesson in order to survive here today. Having done Fiddler is a stripe on my uniform now."

On what he wanted people to know about the story, the actor added, "We must know about our roots, our roots before slavery. African-American children don’t know about how deep our history is. It did not start with slavery. There’s a history that comes way before that. We need to know those lessons. The principal word now is forgiveness. We must work together to save the planet. That’s why we are here. We need to drop all agendas in order to do that."

Gossett would appear in many other television shows, as well as a variety of feature films and video games. He made history with his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in 1982's An Officer and a Gentlemen, becoming the first Black actor in history to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The Oscar win advanced Gossett's career in a major way, giving him more freedom with the roles he wanted to take on in subsequent years.

“The Oscar gave me the ability of being able to choose good parts in movies like Enemy MineSadat, and Iron Eagle,” Gossett said in the 2024 book 50 Oscar Nights by Dave Karger. “I’m going to donate [the Oscar statue] to a library so I don’t have to keep an eye on it [in storage]. I need to be free of it.”

Comic book fans may remember Gossett for his roles in 1989's The Punisher movie and the 2019 Watchmen miniseries. The actor also voiced Lucius Fox in the animated series The Batman. He is also known for playing Colonel Chappy Sinclair in the Iron Eagle movies. More recently, Gossett appeared in the 2023 remake of The Color Purple. He will posthumously be featured as the voice of an animated character in the upcoming movie IF, which hits theaters on May 17.

Gossett's other many film roles include The White DawnJaws 3-DToy SoldiersThe DependablesUndercover GrandpaThe Cuban, and Three Months. He has also appeared in a variety of notable television shows, including The Partridge FamilyBonanzaThe Mod SquadMcCloudGood TimesThe JeffersonsLittle House on the PrairiePolice StoryStargate SG-1, and Hap and Leonard. Gossett also hosted Saturday Night Live in 1982.

Gossett's survivors include his sons, Satie and Sharron.

Source: Associated Press

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