Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar-winning star of “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “Roots,” dead at 87 — rest in peace

Louis Gossett Jr., the prolific actor whose roles included an Oscar-winning performance in An Officer and a Gentleman and his Emmy-winning performance as Fiddler in the miniseries Roots, has died at 87.

His death was confirmed to AP by his nephew Neal L. Gossett, who said the actor died at his home in Santa Monica, California Friday morning. A cause of death was not given.

“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,” the cousin told AP of his uncle.
Gossett was born in Coney Island, Brooklyn On May 27, 1936. He began acting in high school, after a sports injury led him to taking an acting class. He ended up starring in his school’s production of You Can’t Take it With You, and later wrote that he became “hooked” on acting.

Gossett found early success on the stage, and made his Broadway debut in 1953. His most major early stage role was in the original production of the classic play A Raisin in the Sun, playing Murchison. The cast also included Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee.

The play was widely critically acclaimed, and Gossett reprised his performance in the lauded 1961 film adaptation.

Gossett continued to act in successful Broadway productions including The Blacks, Tambourines to Glory and The Zulu and the Zayda. He also began appearing in films, including The Landlord, Skin Game and Travels with My Aunt.

One of Gossett’s best-known performances was in the landmark 1977 miniseries Roots, a saga of a family over decades of slavery. “All the top African-American actors were asked, and I begged to be in there,” Gossett once said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “I got the best role, I think. It was wonderful.”

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