Oscar-Winning Roots And Officer And A Gentleman Actor Louis Gossett Jr. Has Died At 87

Louis Gossett, Jr., a trailblazing actor who became the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, sadly passed away late Thursday night on March 28, 2024. He was 87 years old. The news was reported by the Associated Press, who confirmed his death through the late actor's nephew Robert.

Most recently appearing in Warner Bros.' "The Color Purple" remake and in HBO's "Watchmen" series, Gossett, Jr. is perhaps most well known for his award-winning turn as drill instructor Emil Foley in 1982's "An Officer and a Gentleman." Additionally, he won an Emmy award for his role in the popular 1977 miniseries "Roots" and went on to earn widespread acclaim and recognition on both television and movies, racking up numerous Primetime Emmy Awards over the years. After first getting his start on Broadway at a time when the odds were severely stacked against him, Gossett, Jr. made his big-screen debut in 1961's adaptation of "A Raisin in the Sun" alongside stars such as Sidney Poitier and even found success as a folk musician, sometimes incorporating his own songs into his acting work. A longtime and outspoken activist against racial issues of his day, he founded the nonprofit Eracism Foundation with an eye towards eradicating racism in all forms.

Although he diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, no cause of death was immediately revealed.

Louis Gossett, Jr. passes away at 87

After over 60 years in the business and hundreds of credits to his name, Louis Gossett, Jr. leaves behind a legacy as a tireless performer, a fiery stage presence, and a groundbreaking talent who set a milestone in Black representation. Not just anyone could stand toe to toe with the likes of actor Richard Gere in director Taylor Hackford's "An Officer and a Gentleman," giving the established movie star a run for his money in a role that required he wear his co-star down in merciless fashion and ultimately being rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor win at the 1983 Academy Awards. Gossert, Jr. also famously starred in "Enemy Mine" a few years later opposite Dennis Quaid and "Iron Eagle" in 1986, the latter of which led to three subsequent sequels and made him the star of a bona fide movie franchise.

His work in television was perhaps even more prolific, however, ultimately walking away with seven total Emmy nominations (and one win for "Roots") in various appearances on shows such as "Backstairs at the White House," "Palmerstown, U.S.A.," "Sadat," "A Gathering of Old Men," "Touched by an Angel," and "Watchmen." Gossett, Jr. remained working through the twilight of his career, as well, making a memorable guest appearance and sharing the screen with Michael Kenneth Williams on "Boardwalk Empire" in 2013 along with turns in "Psych," "ER," and the slavery drama "The Book of Negroes." He'll next be seen (or, rather, heard) in a voice role for John Krasinski's upcoming "IF" later this year, giving audiences yet another opportunity to celebrate his life.

Gossett, Jr. leaves behind sons Satie Gossett and Sharron Gossett along with his nephew, actor Robert Gossett.