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Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar-winning star, Dies at 87

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Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar-winning star, Dies at 87

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

“We hate to inform you that our loving father passed away this morning. We’d want to express our gratitude to everyone who has sent their condolences during this difficult time. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time,” his family stated on Friday.

Louis Gossett always conceived of 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.”

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.

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


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 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.”

Louis 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.

Louis Gossett became friends with James Dean and studied acting with Marilyn Monroe, Martin Landau, and Steve McQueen at an offshoot of the Actors Studio led by Frank Silvera.

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.

“I am privileged to have worked with Sidney Poitier, Diana Sands, and Ruby Dee. In 2020, Louis Gossett told CBS News, “What a pleasure.” “Showed me what was good and evil. They taught me about it. I fell in love. It’s in my bloodstream.

Gossett later became a Broadway star, replacing Billy Daniels in “Golden Boy” opposite 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 lodged at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and Universal Studios had hired 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.

“Something has happened to my system. You know, you have to look over and be cautious. Because that sensation harmed me,” Louis Gossett explained in 2020. “So, when do they say Black lives matter? All lives matter, because they not only harmed me, but also themselves.”

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 Louis Gossett stated that he had been shackled to a tree and in handcuffs for three hours. He was eventually set free when the original police car returned.


“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 stopped by police on Pacific Coast Highway while driving his refurbished 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 in creating a world free of racism.

Gossett made several 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 Louis 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.

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, Louis Gossett became the third Black actor to receive an Oscar nomination in the supporting actor category. He told CBS News that he didn’t realize he’d won for his role as the intimidating Marine drill instructor in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” which starred Richard Gere and Debra Winger.

“My agent slapped me in the breast and told me, ‘They mentioned your name!’ And I had to look at him because I thought I was sleeping,” added Gossett, who won a Golden Globe for her performance. “I turned around, and there was applause. This was not meant to be possible. So that is a piece of history.

Gossett stated that the triumph enabled him to select “good parts” in future films. In 2020, he told CBS News that he considers his long career “a blessing” and plans to stay in the industry for as long as possible.

“As long as I’m here, there is a job to do for the benefit of us all, for what it’s worth,” he told the crowd.

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.” 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.

In 2010, Gossett revealed he had prostate cancer, which he stated was detected early. In 2020, he was hospitalized for COVID-19.

He is survived by two sons: Satie, a producer-director from his second marriage, and Sharron, a chef he adopted after witnessing the 7-year-old in a TV piece on children in desperate situations. His first cousin is Robert Gossett, an actor.

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

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, he crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. His writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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