‘A Dear, Dear Man’: June Squibb Tells Adorable Story Of The Late Richard Roundtree Surprising Her On Her Birthday On The Set Of Thelma

 Richard Roundtree and June Squibb riding on a scooter through los angeles in Thelma.
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

When Richard Roundtree died back in October at the age of 81, the actor left a great legacy behind him, particularly through his work in movies and television across 50 years. Roundtree will be best remembered for his iconic role as John Shaft, though there are, of course, other memorable Roundtree roles, like in David Fincher’s Seven. This weekend, his last performance arrives with the 2024 movie release Thelma, and his co-star June Squibb recalled a sweet memory of working with him to CinemaBlend.

During my interview with Squibb, I asked the actress if there was something about working with the late Roundtree that she could disclose in his memory. Here’s what she recalled:

It was my birthday during the shoot and he was not working that day and everybody had a white wig. My assistant had gotten white wigs and so that everybody I could turn around and see everybody wearing a white wig. And he came and brought me red roses and wore a white wig. We have a picture of him and I with his white wig on, and that to me was just beautiful. dear man.

Thelma is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year as we soon reach 2024's halfway mark. The feature, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year, follows 93-year-old June Squibb as a grandmother named Thelma who is a victim to a phone scam that leads her to send a huge sum of money under the impression that she was helping her grandson. When she finds out it was all a ruse, she makes it her mission to find the scammer herself and get her money back.

It features Richard Roundtree’s final performance, as he plays an old friend of Squibb's character who's living at a senior home and in possession of a scooter she needs as her getaway car. Here they are in action:

Richard Roundtree and June Squibb walking away from fire in Thelma
Richard Roundtree and June Squibb walking away from fire in Thelma

Roundtree never got to see the positive reception for Thelma, which has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes following its debut at Sundance earlier this year, but he certainly made an impact on set, as Squibb told me. She continued to share about Roundtree:

I mean, you know, when an actor comes and they don't have to, that's really something, but then to, to remember the birthday and to bring me flowers and he, he was so dear. He really was just a dear.

Remembering Richard Roundtree

Richard Roundtree in Shaft
Richard Roundtree in Shaft

How Richard Roundtree's Shaft Had A Seismic Impact On The Black Community And Cinema At Large

Thelma is a rare action comedy that places two elderly people at the center of things, with Squibb getting her first starring role ever in her 90s. During our conversation, Squibb shared that while she “truly didn’t know” she could do the physicality of the role, she ended up having a blast doing a series of stunts for the hilarious revenge flick. On top of Thelma being a really fun movie that plays with action genre tropes, it has something really profound to say about how unsettling and frustrating it can be to get older and reach one’s 80s and 90s. The movie is based on writer/director Josh Margolin’s own experience seeing his grandmother get scammed.

Squibb is currently 94 years old and working left and right in Hollywood productions. The actress got her start in Broadway before earning major Oscar recognition from the industry later than most when she starred in Nebraska with Bruce Dern and earned a Best Supporting Actress nod. She actually will have two movies in theaters when Thelma comes out June 21, because she’s also the voice of Nostalgia in Inside Out 2! It’s clear Squibb operates under the idea that age is just a number, and so did her late co-star Richard Roundtree.