Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar Award-Winning Actor, Dies at 87

Gossett appeared in An Officer and a Gentleman, Roots, Watchmen, and The Color Purple.

Louis Gossett, Jr., the Oscar and Emmy winner who appeared in HBO's Watchmen and the first film adaptation based on The Punisher, has died. He was 87 years old. Gossett was the first Black man to receive an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, winning for 1982's A Officer and a Gentleman, and also earned an Emmy Award for his role in the acclaimed miniseries Roots. Gossett debuted on Broadway in 1953, starring in Take a Giant Step at age 16. He went to New York University, and befriended '50s luminaries like James Dean, Marilyn Munroe, Martin Landau and Steve McQueen in the early days of his career.

Gossett's screen career began with 1961's adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, and for decades, he played roles that explored the Black experience in both contemporary and historical American society. His final onscreen role came in 2023's adaptation of The Color Purple.

Gossett's life story is well-documented, not only because he spent decades in the public eye but also because he wrote a 2010 memoir, titled An Actor and a Gentleman. In it, he talks about his experiences in and around the madness of Hollywood, from abusive Los Angeles cops to his unlikely connection to the Manson Family. Per the Associated Press, Gossett claims that he was actually about to leave for a party at actress Sharon Tate's house, when he saw on the news that Tate had been murdered by members of the notorious cult.

After years as a respected actor on stage and screen, Gossett broke through in a big way with Roots in 1977. After that, he became an iconic presence on screens throughout the 1980s, playing key roles in movies like Iron Eagle, The Principal, and Sadat in addition to his Oscar-winning turn in An Officer and a Gentleman. He also appeared in a number of high profile TV series and TV movies including The Rockford Files, The Lazarus Syndrome, and Don't Look Back: The Story of Leroy 'Satchel' Paige, in which he played the title role.

Gossett earned his Emmy in 1977, and then his Oscar six years later. He also landed a Golden Globe Award for his part in An Officer and a Gentleman. He later won another Golden Globe for 1991's TV movie The Josephine Baker Story.

"More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a Black actor," AP quotes his memoir.

Throughout the 1990s, he would split his time between TV movies, prestige projects, and action roles. Sequels to Iron Eagle appeared on his CV alongside with episodes of Captain Planet and the Planeteers and movies like Blue Chips and A Good Man in Africa, making Gossett incredibly prolific and instantly recognizable to many cinephiles.

Over the course of his long career, Gossett's health often slowed down an otherwise prolific career. He struggled with substance abuse issues in the 1980s, was diagnosed with toxic mold syndrome during that same period, and beat prostate cancer after a 2010 diagnosis. In 2020, he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

He is survived by sons Satie, himself a producer and director, and Sharron.