“Roots” star Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win Best Supporting Actor at Oscars, dies at 87

The "Officer and a Gentleman" actor recently starred in "The Color Purple" musical and HBO's "Watchmen" series.

Louis Gossett Jr., a prolific Hollywood trailblazer who became the first Black performer to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars for his role in 1982's An Officer and a Gentleman, has died at age 87.

The Emmy-winning Roots actor reportedly died Thursday night in Santa Monica, Calif., his nephew told the Associated Press. The cause of death was not revealed.

Entertainment Weekly has reached out to representatives for Gossett Jr. for more information.

In addition to his history-making turn opposite Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman and the monumental 1977 miniseries Roots, Gossett Jr. sustained his on screen career for decades. This included recent appearances as comic book character Hooded Justice in the popular HBO series Watchmen, and in a supporting role in last year's The Color Purple musical movie.

<p>Tara Ziemba/Getty</p> Louis Gossett Jr. dies at 87

Tara Ziemba/Getty

Louis Gossett Jr. dies at 87

Gere paid tribute to his former costar in a statement to EW.

“Lou was a sweetheart. He took his job very seriously. He did his research. He stayed in character the whole time,” said Gere. “I don't think we ever saw him socially. He was the drill sergeant 24 hours a day, and it showed clearly in his performance. He drove every scene he was in. A tough guy with a heart of gold. We were all so proud of him when he won his Oscar. Condolences to his family.”

LeVar Burton remembered his former Roots costar with a behind-the-scenes photo from the miniseries. “One of the best to ever do it,” he wrote of Gossett Jr. on X. “Thank you, Lou… for everything!”

Born in New York City, Gossett Jr. was a high school athlete who later went to New York University on a basketball and drama scholarship, which led to his eventual Broadway debut in a 1953 production of Take a Giant Step.

He later appeared opposite Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Diana Sands in a 1959 adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, before making his Hollywood debut starring in the 1961 movie version of the stage project.

In later years, he opened up about racism he experienced as he rose to prominence in the entertainment industry, which led him to establish the Eracism Foundation to combat racial bias in the culture at large.

In 2010, Gossett Jr. announced that he had early-stage prostate cancer and in 2020 he was hospitalized after contracting COVID-19.

Gossett Jr. is survived by his cousin, The Closer actor Robert Gossett, and two sons: Satie, a producer-director he had with his second wife, Christina Mangosing, and Sharron, a chef whom he adopted when Sharron was 7 years old.

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