(ReliableNews.org) – Born in New York in 1942, Richard Roundtree grew up to become one of the most iconic actors of all time. While the talented thespian became a household name, playing John Shaft in the “Shaft” franchise, Roundtree accumulated 159 acting credits over his illustrious five-decade-long career. On October 24, the actor’s manager, Patrick McMinn, confirmed to People that the actor passed away at the age of 81.
His Death and Tributes
McMinn told the news outlet that Roundtree died from pancreatic cancer at his home in Los Angeles, California, with his family by his bedside. The actor’s agency released a statement about his death, stating he “changed the face of entertainment” worldwide throughout his “trailblazing career.”
Fellow actor Samuel L. Jackson, who worked beside Roundtree in the “Shaft” sequels, posted a message on Instagram about his friend. He called the actor “The Prototype,” stating that the Shaft character was and “will always be his creation.” Jackson said he imagined Roundtree brought that Shaft swagger down “the middle of Main Street in heaven” — his long iconic coat flapping in the wind. The tribute was accompanied by an image of Jackson and Roundtree on the “Shaft” set.
Fellow actor Gabrielle Union said Roundtree was “always the coolest man in the room.” She worked with him on BET TV’s “Being Mary Jane.”
Life and Career
While it’s true that Roundtree spent the majority of his life on stage, TV, and the big screen, that wasn’t his only talent. The actor reportedly won a football scholarship to play at Southern Illinois University, but his heart was set somewhere else — in the modeling and acting world. He dropped out of college in 1963 to pursue that dream and succeeded. Roundtree dabbled in modeling, posing for Ebony magazine’s annual fashion event before getting his first big break in acting in 1967.
After joining the Negro Ensemble Company, the actor landed a role as a boxing champion in “The Great White Hope.” Four years later, he was cast as Shaft — and the rest was history. Roundtree was an inspiration to many people in the black community and was approached by many who commended him for his example. During a roundtable talk on SiriusXM, the actor said he was “very proud of that.”
Some of Roundtree’s other credits include “Earthquake,” “Man Friday,” “Inchon,” and “City Heat.” He will be remembered all over the globe, but especially by the five children he leaves behind.
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