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Academy Award Winning Actor Louis Gossett Jr. Dead at 87

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Louis Gossett Jr

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

Louis Gossett Jr, the actor’s first cousin, told The Associated Press that he died in Santa Monica, California. According to a family statement, Gossett died on Friday morning. There was no indication of what caused the death.

Louis Gossett Jr’s cousin Neil remembers a man who walked with Nelson Mandela and was also a fantastic joke teller, a family member who faced and combated racism with dignity and humor.

“Forget the prizes, the flash and glamor, the Rolls-Royces, and the large villas in Malibu. “It’s about the humanity of the people that he represented,” his cousin explained.

Louis Gossett always viewed his early career as a reverse Cinderella narrative, with success finding him at a young age and propelling him ahead to his Academy Award for “An Officer and A Gentleman.”

Gossett made his television debut as Fiddler in the historic 1977 miniseries “Roots,” which exposed slavery’s miseries. The large cast includes Ben Vereen, LeVar Burton, and John Amos.

In 1983, Gossett became the third Black actor to receive an Oscar nomination in the supporting actor category. He won for his portrayal of the intimidating Marine drill instructor in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” with Richard Gere and Debra Winger. He also received a Golden Globe for the same role.

“More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a Black actor,” he said in his 2010 biography, “An Actor and a Gentleman.”
A lucky break.

He received his first acting credit in his Brooklyn high school’s production of “You Can’t Take It with You” while recovering from an injury that kept him off the basketball team.

In his memoir, he stated, “I was hooked — and so was my audience.”

His English teacher encouraged him to go to Manhattan to audition for “Take a Giant Step.” He got the part and made his Broadway debut in 1953, at the age of sixteen.

“I knew too little to be nervous,” Gossett wrote. “In retrospect, I should have been scared to death as I walked onto that stage, but I wasn’t.”

Gossett went to New York University on a basketball and acting scholarship. He quickly began performing and singing on television shows presented by David Susskind, Ed Sullivan, Red Buttons, Merv Griffin, Jack Paar, and Steve Allen.

Gossett became friends with James Dean and studied acting alongside Marilyn Monroe, Martin Landau, and Steve McQueen at Frank Silvera’s Actors Studio spinoff.

Gossett garnered critical praise in 1959 for his performance in the Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun” alongside Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Diana Sands.

He went on to become a Broadway star, succeeding Billy Daniels in “Golden Boy” alongside Sammy Davis Jr. in 1964.

In 1961, Gossett made his first trip to Hollywood to work on the film adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun.” He had negative memories of the trip, including staying in a cockroach-infested motel that was one of the only places that allowed Black people.

In 1968, he returned to Hollywood to play a prominent role in “Companions in Nightmare,” NBC’s first made-for-television film, alongside Melvyn Douglas, Anne Baxter, and Patrick O’Neal.

This time, Gossett was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and Universal Studios had loaned him a convertible. After picking up the automobile, he was stopped by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s officer, who ordered him to turn off the radio and raise the car’s roof before allowing him to go.

Within minutes, he was stopped by eight sheriff’s police, who forced him to lean against the car and open the trunk while they called the auto rental business before releasing him.

“Though I understood that I had no choice but to put up with this abuse, it was a terrible way to be treated, a humiliating way to feel,” Gossett wrote in his account of the experience. “I realized this was happening because I was Black and had been showing off with a fancy car — which, in their view, I had no right to be driving.”

After dinner at the hotel, he went for a walk and was stopped a block away by a police officer, who informed him that he had violated a rule barring walking around residential Beverly Hills after 9 p.m.

Two other cops came, and Gossett stated that he had been shackled to a tree and handcuffs for three hours. When the original police car returned, he was finally free.

“Now I had come face-to-face with racism, and it was an ugly sight,” he said. “But it was not going to destroy me.”

Gossett claimed that in the late 1990s, he was pulled over by police on the Pacific Coast Highway while driving his restored 1986 Rolls-Royce Corniche II. The police informed him he resembled someone they were looking for, but he recognized Gossett and departed.

He formed the Eracism Foundation to assist create a world free of racism.

Gossett made a number of guest appearances on shows such as “Bonanza,” “The Rockford Files,” “The Mod Squad,” “McCloud,” and a noteworthy performance with Richard Pryor on “The Partridge Family.”

Gossett was partying with Mamas and Papas members in August 1969 when they were invited to actor Sharon Tate’s house. He went home first to shower and change clothes.

As he was about to depart, he saw a news flash on TV regarding Tate’s murder. That night, Charles Manson’s associates murdered her and several others.

“There had to be a reason for my escaping this bullet,” he stated in an email.

Louis Cameron Gossett was born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn’s Coney Island neighborhood to parents Louis Sr., a porter, and Hellen, a nurse. He eventually added Jr. to his name in honor of his father.

“The Oscar gave me the ability of being able to choose good parts in movies like ‘Enemy Mine,’ ‘Sadat’ and ‘Iron Eagle,'” Gossett stated in Dave Karger’s 2024 book, “50 Oscar Nights.”

He claimed his statue was in storage.

“I’m going to donate it to a library so I don’t have to keep an eye on it,” he stated in the book. “I need to be free of it.”
Wins but no leads.

Gossett starred in television films such as “The Story of Satchel Paige,” “Backstairs at the White House,” “The Josephine Baker Story,” for which he won another Golden Globe, and “Roots Revisited.”

However, he stated that winning an Oscar did not change the reality that all of his parts were supporting ones.

He plays an unyielding patriarch in the 2023 version of “The Color Purple.”

After winning the Oscar, Gossett struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction for several years. He went to rehab and was diagnosed with toxic mold illness, which he attributed to his Malibu home.

Gossett disclosed in 2010 that he had prostate cancer, which he said was detected early. COVID-19 hospitalized him in 2020.

Satie, a producer-director from his second marriage, and Sharron, a chef whom he adopted after watching the 7-year-old in a TV feature on children in extreme situations, are also survivors. His first cousin is Robert Gossett, an actor.

Hattie Glascoe, Gossett’s first wife, was divorced. His second marriage, to Christina Mangosing, ended in divorce in 1975, as did his third, to actor Cyndi James-Reese, in 1992.

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