30 Mar 2024

Louis Gossett Jr: First black man to win supporting actor Oscar dies

8:28 am on 30 March 2024

By Noor Nanji, culture reporter for BBC News

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 22: Louis Gossett Jr. during American Black Film Festival Honors Awards Ceremony

Louis Gossett Jr. has been remembered as a "true legend". Photo: AFP

Louis Gossett Jr, the first black man to win the best supporting actor Oscar, has died at the age of 87.

The New York-born actor won the Academy Award in 1982 for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman.

Gossett also won an Emmy in 1978 for his role in Roots, the ground-breaking TV mini-series about slavery.

His death was confirmed by his family to the BBC's US partner CBS. No cause of death was given.

Gossett made his Broadway debut as a teenager and later starred in shows such as A Raisin in the Sun and Golden Boy.

He went on to gain critical acclaim across a six-decade career.

Gossett continued acting into later life and his last role was in the 2023 musical remake of The Color Purple.

Louis Gossett Jr in 'Watchmen'

Louis Gossett Jr. played the former Hooded Justice in Watchmen. Photo: Supplied

In the film, a reimagining of Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, he played Ol' Mister Johnson, father of Albert "Mister" Johnson, played by Colman Domingo.

Writing on Instagram, Domingo called him "a true great. A true legend".

"What an honour to have been able to give him his flowers on his last day of his final film The Color Purple where he played my father," he wrote.

"Fantasia [Barrino] sang it best ... He ran his race for us. We are forever indebted. May we stand firmly on his shoulders. Lift him up today. RIP."

Barrino, who played lead character Celie in the film, also wrote: "Louis Gossett Jr, what an awesome man you were and the stories you told us, I'll never, ever forget."

She added that he had "paved the way for black actors and actresses".

Gossett also starred in Backstairs At The White House, The Story Of Satchel Paige, The Josephine Baker Story, for which he won a Golden Globe, and Roots Revisited.

He also starred in the cult 1980s science fiction film Enemy Mine as the alien Jeriba Shigan, alongside Dennis Quaid.

This story was originally published by the BBC.

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