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Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar Winner for ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ Dies at 87

Louis Gossett Jr., who won an Oscar for his role as a tough-as-nails drill instructor in 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman,” a few years after winning an Emmy for his role as a wily violinist in “Roots,” has died, the AP reported. reports. He was 87 years old.

In “An Officer and a Gentleman” by Taylor Hackford, Sgt. Emil Foley memorably drove Richard Gere’s character to the point of collapse at a Navy flight school. Gossett was the first black man to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role.

In addition to “An Officer and a Gentleman,” Gossett is best known for the films “Enemy Mine” (1985), in which he played an alien forced to reconcile with his human enemy when he and an astronaut played by Dennis Quaid meet. found. stranded on a planet, and “Iron Eagle” (1986), in which he played an Air Force veteran who helps a young pilot find his father, who has been shot down and captured.

After her Emmy win for “Roots” in 1978, Gossett earned six more Emmy nominations over the years. He was nominated for playing the Egyptian president who made peace with Israel in the 1983 TV movie “Sadat.” He was also nominated for his performance in the 1978 variety special “The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen : His Roots”; for playing Levi Mercer in the 1979 NBC miniseries “Backstairs at the White House”; for lead actor in a drama series for “Palmerstown, USA” in 1981; for lead actor in a miniseries or special for “A Gathering of Old Men” directed by Volker Schlondorff (1987), in which he starred with Richard Widmark and Holly Hunter; and for several appearances as Anderson Walker on CBS’s “Touched by an Angel” in 1997.

Gossett, still working hard in his late ’70s, memorably guest-starred on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” in 2013, playing Michael Kenneth Williams’ Chalky’s mentor, whom Chalky reunites with when he’s on the run .

He also recently appeared in Halle Berry’s CBS sci-fi thriller “Extant” as Quinn and guest-starred in series such as “Madam Secretary” (2014), “Psych” (2012) and “ER » (2009), as well as in the IFC show. miniseries parody “The Spoils Before Dying” (2015).

Having first gained attention through his work on the historical miniseries “Roots,” Gossett starred in another miniseries about slavery, BET’s “The Book of Negroes,” in 2015.

Asked by Variety in 2015, which of his roles was his favorite, Gossett responded: “Anwar Sadat. It was a challenge to play someone with such a history. His mind was very much like Mandela’s. He went from a hawk to a dove. He had lost his brother and the people he loved. He said he would be willing to enter Israel in the name of peace. Mandela was ready to leave prison with a smile on his face. »

Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. was born in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He made his stage debut at age 17 in a school production of “You Can’t Take It With You”; a sports injury had prompted him to make the decision to take a theater course. He also fought polio while growing up. He was offered an athletic scholarship, but went to NYU at his own expense, where the tall young man could have played college basketball, which he declined to do in favor of theatrical pursuits.

Gossett had already made his Broadway debut, in 1953, despite no formal acting training, replacing Bill Gunn as Spencer Scott in “Take a Giant Step”, which New York Times drama critics named as the one of the 10 best shows of the time. year. He made his first mention in Variety for his work in the play.

His other Broadway credits include the classic 1959-60 original production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” in which he played George Murchison, the wealthy, educated boyfriend of the family’s young daughter, Beneatha; George, who denies his African heritage, represents the fully assimilated black man. Gossett made his big screen debut reprising the role in the 1961 film version of “A Raisin in the Sun.” (Previously, he had a smaller role in the original comedy “The Desk Set,” which, fortunately, was also a big hit.)

In 1963, he appeared at the Rialto in the Langston Hughes adaptation “Tambourines to Glory,” and he was replaced in the controversial hit musical “Golden Boy” starring Sammy Davis Jr. in which Gossett played the promoter Mephistophelean boxer Eddie Satin. He was also among the stars of the original musical “The Zulu and the Zayda,” about a Jewish man and a black man bridging the racial divide in Johannesburg.

In 1968, Gossett starred with Diane Ladd, among others, in the Sidney Poitier-directed play “Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights,” and the actor played assassinated African leader Patrice Lumumba in the 1971 play “Murderous Angels” .

Decades later, in 2002, Gossett returned to Broadway to replace Billy Flynn in the musical “Chicago.”

As executive producer of the program, Gossett shared a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Special for 1997’s “As Father,” for which he was also nominated for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Special. He plays a man with cancer who shares a magical experience with his son.

He also shared a nomination for Outstanding Special Class for the opening ceremony of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Paralympics, for which he served as narrator.

Later in his career, Gossett continued to play television and film roles. He played a seven-episode arc in the acclaimed HBO miniseries “Watchmen” and had a leading role in the 2020 religious drama “The Reason.” He also appeared in the 2023 remake of “The Color Purple.”

Gossett was married three times. His first marriage, in 1964, to Hattie Glascoe was annulled. He was married to Christina Mangosing (from 1973 to 1975 and had one child) and actress Cyndi James Gossett (1987 to 1992). Both of these marriages ended in divorce.

Survivors include a son, producer Satie Gossett, of Mangosing; an adopted son, Sharron, with Cyndi James Gossett; and a nephew, actor Robert Gossett.

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