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Louis Gossett Jr.’s Greatest Roles: A Streaming Guide


When most people think of the venerable actor Louis Gossett Jr., who died Friday at age 87, they naturally bring up his Oscar-winning role in the 1982 drama “An Officer and a Gentleman.” But he accumulated more than 200 credits during a career in film, stage and television that spanned more than 60 years, and brought a skill set that included not only theater but also comedy, science -fiction, action and horror. Here are some highlights from his illustrious career and where to stream them.


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Gossett had already established himself as a renowned actor on stage, in television productions and in small but memorable film appearances (“The Landlord,” “Skin Game”) when he was cast in the adaptation in ABC miniseries of Alex Haley’s best picture. seller. He plays the key role of Fiddler, an older slave who becomes a mentor to the central character, Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton). Fiddler allows Gossett to display many of the gifts that would distinguish him throughout his career: an inherent dignity, an unadorned tenacity, and a (seemingly contradictory) warmth and humanity. The miniseries was a cultural sensation, beat Records for the television audience, and Gossett would win an Emmy for his unforgettable work.

Gossett was 45 when he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – the first black actor to do so – for his magnificent turn in this romantic drama directed by Richard Gere. The role of Sergeant Foley, the instructor who breaks Gere’s star recruit while simultaneously becoming a father figure to the young man, could have been played as a walking, talking cliché. But Gossett, who trained for the role at Camp Pendleton’s drill instructor school, transcends character tropes, investing Foley with a genuine decency and unexpected warmth beneath his rock-hard exterior . “Mr. Gossett, always a good linebacker, is a star this time,” our reviewer written at the time.


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If Gossett had landed a role like Foley a decade earlier, he might have spent the 1970s playing an assortment of rich and complicated characters. But the 1980s weren’t exactly the golden age of studio filmmaking, and he struggled to find projects worthy of his considerable talents, often proving to be the most (or only) element remarkable from otherwise marginal action films like “Iron Eagle” and “Firewalker.” But he had a real chance to act in this futuristic sci-fi adventure from director Wolfgang Petersen (“Air Force One”). Dennis Quaid is an intergalactic pilot marooned on a distant planet with an alien life form; Gossett is considered an alien, given the unenviable challenge of playing a leading role through pounds of scaly makeup that make him almost unrecognizable. Yet he delivers, investing the character with pathos and gravitas, while our knowledge of the actor underneath lends serious symbolic weight to the film’s themes of understanding and commonalities between races.

One of the overlooked gems of Gossett’s filmography is this sports-tinged comedy, something of a specialty of director Michael Ritchie, whose credits include “Semi-Tough” and “The Bad News Bears.” James Woods is a fast-talking conman and fight promoter who descends on the Georgia town of the title, known for its illegal high-dollar boxing matches, and makes a big bet: his fighter can take on 10 opponents in 24 hours and beat -all of them. Gossett is Honey Roy Palmer, the fighter, and at 48, he seems anything but a sure thing. But in this twisty Sting-style tale, no one and nothing is what it seems. It’s a perfect role for the actor, who plays it with a sparkle in his eyes and plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and the result is “a funny and vulgar fable» which our critic praised for its “speed and good humor”.


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Gossett received his final Emmy nomination (for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie) for this adaptation of the highly influential graphic novel by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore. Series creator Damon Lindelof has freely reframed, reinterpreted, and remixed the narrative from its 1980s origins to address not only the hidden corners of American racial history, but also the current moment of activism and protest. Gossett appears in the pivotal supporting role of Will Reeves, grandfather of the protagonist, Angela Abar (Regina King), whose age and use of a wheelchair hide a secret past: while he was a police officer in the late 1930s he took on the secret identity of Hood Justice. , righting the wrongs ignored by its racist police department. It’s a stunning performance, one that speaks to the power of Gossett’s character: you don’t doubt for a moment that this man was once a real superhero.


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Although he has several posthumous projects in postproduction, the last appearance in a feature film during Gossett’s lifetime was his brief but scathing turn in Blitz Bazawule’s adaptation of the Alice Walker story. He appears as Ol’ Mister, father of Colman Domingo’s Mister, the abusive and domineering husband who keeps the protagonist, Celie, under his thumb. In just a few scenes, Gossett’s work as the grumpy, bitter old man tells us everything we need to know about how and why the young Mister is the way he is. Gossett shared the nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and this is perhaps the best way to remember him: as an invaluable piece of so many ensembles, a team player who nevertheless always shone.


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