Louis Gossett Jr.
Gossett in 2021
Louis Cameron Gossett Jr.

(1936-05-27) May 27, 1936 (age 87)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1953–present
  • Hattie Glascoe
    (m. 1967; annul. 1968)
  • Christina Mangosing
    (m. 1973; div. 1975)
  • Cyndi James-Reese
    (m. 1987; div. 1992)
RelativesRobert Gossett (first cousin)

Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. (born May 27, 1936) is an American actor. Born in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City, he had his stage debut at the age of 17, in a school production of You Can't Take It with You. Shortly after he successfully auditioned for the Broadway play Take a Giant Step. Gossett would go on acting on stage. One of these plays was A Raisin in the Sun in 1959, and in 1961 he made his debut on screen in its film adaptation. From thereon, Gossett added to his resume many roles in films and television, as well as releasing music. In 1977, Gossett gained wide recognition for his role of Fiddler in the popular miniseries Roots for which he won "Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series" at the Emmy Awards.

Gossett continued acting in high profile films and television. In 1982, for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and became the first black actor to win in this category. At the Emmy Awards, Gossett continued to receive recognition with acting nominations for The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His Roots (1978), Palmerstown, U.S.A. (1981), Sadat (1983), A Gathering of Old Men (1987), Touched by an Angel (1997), and Watchmen (2019). He won and was nominated at other ceremonies including the Golden Globe Awards, Black Reel Awards, NAACP Image Awards, etc. Gossett is also well known for his role as Colonel Chappy Sinclair in the Iron Eagle film series (1986-1995).

Since his beginnings, Gossett appeared in a wide range of projects. Film projects include Hal Ashby's The Landlord (1970), Paul Bogart's Skin Game (1971), George Cukor's Travels with My Aunt (1972), Stuart Rosenberg's The Laughing Policeman (1974), Philip Kaufman's The White Dawn (1974), Peter Yates's The Deep (1977), Wolfgang Petersen's Enemy Mine (1985), Christopher Cain's The Principal (1987), Mark Goldblatt's The Punisher (1989), Daniel Petrie's Toy Soldiers (1991), as well as television appearance in Bonanza (1971), The Jeffersons (1975), American Playhouse (1990), Stargate SG-1 (2005), Boardwalk Empire (2013), and The Book of Negroes (2015). He also acted in video-games, commercials, and continued to work on stage.

Early life and education

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Gossett was born in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City, to Hellen Rebecca (née Wray), a nurse, and Louis Gossett Sr., a porter.[citation needed] He is an alumnus of Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 and Abraham Lincoln High School.[citation needed] His stage debut came at the age of 17, in a school production of You Can't Take It with You when a sports injury resulted in the decision to take an acting class. Polio had already delayed his graduation.[citation needed]

His high school teacher had encouraged him to audition for a Broadway part, resulting in his selection for a starring role on Broadway in 1953 from among 200 other actors well before he entered NYU.[citation needed]

After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1954, he attended New York University, declining an athletic scholarship.[1] Standing 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall, he was offered the opportunity to play varsity basketball during his college years at NYU; he declined the basketball offer to concentrate on theater.[citation needed]


Main article: Louis Gossett Jr. on screen and stage

1953 to 1977: music career and early roles to breakthrough

A scene from the play A Raisin in the Sun in 1959, with Gossett (left) as George Murchison, Ruby Dee as Ruth Younger, and Sidney Poitier as Walter Younger

In 1953, Gossett acted in the Broadway play Take a Giant Step.[2] He replaced Bill Gunn as Spencer Scott.[3] The play was selected by The New York Times drama critics as one of the 10 best shows of the year. He was 17, and still a student at Abraham Lincoln High School, with no formal drama training.[citation needed]

During the early 1960s, Gossett was considered to be a talented folk musician. He was also well known.[4] His singing career was helped along with appearing at the Folk City venue in New York.[5]

Signed to Powertree Records, Gossett's single, "Hooka' Dooka', Green Green" / "Goodmornin' Captain" was released in early 1964.[6] Later in May, "Red Rosy Bush" / "See See Rider" was released.[7]

In 1967, the song "Handsome Johnny" was released appearing on Richie Havens's album Mixed Bag, which he co-composed with Havens . Havens performed it on the Johnny Carson Show which resulted in a standing ovation that lasted through two commercial breaks.[8] By September, 1967, his single "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" / "Just a Girl" was released on Warner Brothers 7078. It was a Cash Box Newcomer Pick and received a good review with the reviewer calling it "easy-paced blues working and a mighty fine smooth vocal join forces in putting across a tempting r&b reading of the folk standard."[9]

In 1970, his album From Me to You was released on B.T. Puppy Records BTPS-1013. It contained some of his own compositions.[10][11]

In 1977, Gossett played the role of Fiddler in the television miniseries Roots based on Alex Haley's book Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The role was his screen breakthrough, earning him an Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor in a single appearance in a drama or comedy series.[12] Gossett has stated that he was initially insulted to be cast as a submissive "Uncle Tom" character, but after researching the role he came to appreciate Fiddler as a survivor doing what he found necessary under the plantation regime.[13]

Gossett with Esther Rolle in a publicity photo for Good Times in 1976

1978 to 1997: subsequent success

On March 2, 1978, the television special The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His Roots premiered. Actor Ben Vereen showcases key elements of his life through dance and music. Gossett was among the guest stars.[14] At the Emmy Awards, Gossett was nominated for "Outstanding continuing or single performance by a supporting actor in variety or music".[15]

On the 28th of January 1979, the mini-series Backstairs at the White House premiered.[16] It is an adaption of the book My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House, about White House servants who served there during several presidencies. Gossett plays a servant who is 37 years of age when the series starts and 88 when it ends. He said ''I took the role because of the chance to age". At the Emmy Awards, Gossett was nominated for "Outstanding lead actor in a limited series or a special".[17]

In 1981, Gossett was a guest star in an episode of the television series Palmerstown, U.S.A..[18] For his performance Gossett was nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.[19]

His role as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was the first black male to win an Oscar in a supporting role,[20] the second black male to win for acting, and the third black actor to win overall.[citation needed] Additionally, Gossett won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globe Awards,[21] and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards.[citation needed]

In 1983, he played the title role in Sadat, a two-part miniseries which chronicled the life and assassination of former Egypt president Anwar Sadat.[22] For his performance, Gossett was nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series,[23] and at the Golden Globes Awards he was nominated for "Best Actor in limited series, anthology series or television motion picture".[21]

Gossett with Clint Eastwood and President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1987

In 1987, Gossett acted in Volker Schlöndorff's A Gathering of Old Men.[24] While it was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival,[25] it was released as television film in the US.[26] For his performance, Gossett was nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special.[27]

In 1996, Gossett acted in Arthur Penn's film Inside which was screened at Cannes before being released as a television film,[28] where he also served as an executive producer.[29] For his effort Gossett received CableACE Award nomination for "Best actor in a movie or mini-series.[30]

In 1997, Gossett had a guest role in theTouched by an Angel episode Amazing Grace: Part 1.[31] For his performance he was nominated for "Outstanding guest actor in a drama series".[32]In 1997, Gossett's narration of Disney's Candlelight Processional, telling the nativity story, was recorded and released by Walt Disney Records. [33]

1998 to present day: following roles and current works

In 2004, Gossett voiced the Vortigaunts in the video game Half-Life 2.[citation needed]

In 2009, Gossett also lent his voice talents in the Thomas Nelson audio Bible production known as The Word of Promise. In this dramatized audio, Gossett played the character of John the Apostle. The project also featured a large ensemble of well known Hollywood actors including Jim Caviezel, John Rhys-Davies, Jon Voight, Gary Sinise, Jason Alexander, Christopher McDonald, Marisa Tomei and John Schneider.[34][35]

Gossett with Secretary Alphonso Jackson in 2004

In 2013, Gossett starred in the controversial drama Boiling Pot, which is based on true events of racism that occurred on college campuses across the US during the 2008 Presidential election. The film, written and directed by the Ashmawey brothers under AshmaweyFilms, also stars Danielle Fishel, Keith David, M. Emmet Walsh, and John Heard. Gossett plays a detective attempting to decipher a murder case that was fueled by racism, all while putting aside his own prejudices. Boiling Pot was released in 2014. He narrated an audiobook based on Twelve Years a Slave.[36]

In 2017 appeared in one episode as Carl Reddick as the patriarch of the law firm in "The Good Fight," a CBS All Access TV show which was a sequel to "The Good Wife, a regular CBS show. His daughter on the show later was a series regular as played by Audra McDonald.[citation needed]

In 2019, Gossett acted in the series Watchmen.[37] At the Emmy Awards, he was nominated for "Outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie",[38] and at the Black Reel Awards he received a nomination for "Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie/Limited Series".[39]

On July 18, 2016, Gossett cohosted as a guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies' primetime lineup.[citation needed] Allowed to choose four movies to air, he selected Blackboard Jungle, Lifeboat, Touch of Evil and The Night of the Hunter.[citation needed]

Personal life

Gossett at the celebration of the anniversary of the March on Washington

Gossett has been married three times and fathered one son and adopted one son. His first marriage was to Hattie Glascoe; it was annulled. His second, to Christina Mangosing, took place on August 21, 1973. Their son Satie was born in 1974. Gossett and Mangosing divorced in 1975. His third marriage, to Star Search champion Cyndi James-Reese, took place on December 25, 1987. They adopted a son, Sharron (born 1977). Gossett and James-Reese divorced in 1992.[40]

Louis is the first cousin of actor Robert Gossett who starred on TNT's The Closer.[citation needed]

Gossett states that in 1966 he was handcuffed to a tree for three hours by the police in Beverly Hills.[41]

On February 9, 2010, Gossett announced that he had prostate cancer. He added the disease was caught in its early stages, and he expected to make a full recovery.[42][43]

In late December 2020, Gossett was hospitalized in Georgia with COVID-19.[44]

Partial accolades

Academy Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref(s)
1983 Best Supporting Actor An Officer and a Gentleman Won [45]

Emmy Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref(s)
1977 Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series Roots Won [46]
1978 Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in Variety or Music The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His Roots Nominated [46]
1979 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special Backstairs at the White House Nominated [46]
1981 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Palmerstown, U.S.A. Nominated [46]
1984 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special Sadat Nominated [46]
1987 A Gathering of Old Men Nominated [46]
1997 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Touched by an Angel Nominated [46]
2020 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Watchmen Nominated [46]

Golden Globe Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref(s)
1983 Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture An Officer and a Gentleman Won [21]
1984 Best Actor - Limited Series, Anthology Series or Television Motion Picture Sadat Nominated [21]
1992 Best Supporting Actor - Television The Josephine Baker Story Won [21]

Black Reel Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref(s)
2000 Outstanding Directing, TV Movie or Limited Series Love Songs Won [39]
2013 Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie/Limited Series Smitty Nominated [39]
2020 Watchmen Nominated [39]

CableACE Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref(s)
1997 Best Actor in a Movie or Mini-series Inside Nominated [30]


  1. ^ Pfefferman, Naomi. "Louis Gossett Jr. to Give Shul Inaugural Ball Toast", The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, January 15, 2009. Accessed September 23, 2009. "Gossett suspects that his English teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School, Gustave Blum, identified with African Americans because he had experienced anti-Semitism as a result of the blacklists."
  2. ^ "Take a giant step". Playbill.
  3. ^ "Take A Giant Step". Jan Hus Playhouse. Lortel Archives. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  4. ^ Boweryboyshistory.com, August 7, 2009 - Cafe Wha?: the whys, wheres, whos and hows
  5. ^ New York Daily News, Aug 14, 2017 - MUSIC, Greenwich Village and the birth of the folk movement By David Hinckley
  6. ^ 45Cat - Lou Gossett - Discography, USA
  7. ^ Billboard, May 30, 1964 - Page 28 Powertree Inks
  8. ^ Rock Song Index by Bruce Pollock - Page 132 Handsome Johnny
  9. ^ Cash Box, September 16, 1967 - Page 34 Record Reviews, Newcomer Picks
  10. ^ Discogs - Louis Gossett, Jr., Discography, Albums
  11. ^ BadCat Records - Lou Gossett
  12. ^ "Roots". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-18.
  13. ^ Bruner, Jeryl (May 23, 2016). "Louis Gossett Jr. on Playing Fiddler In Roots: 'He Was a Survivor'". Parade. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
  14. ^ "Ben Vereen's Talents Showcases". Morning Star. February 26, 1978. p. 26.
  15. ^ "The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen-His Root". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-18.
  16. ^ "TV Highlights". DaytonDaily News. January 28, 1979. pp. Dayton Leisure 23.
  17. ^ "Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie Nominees / Winners 1979". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-19.
  18. ^ Buck, Jerry (March 16, 1981). "CBS series set in the South during the depression". Argus Leader. pp. 11A.
  19. ^ "Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series Nominees / Winners 1981". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-19.
  20. ^ "Louis Gossett Jr. on race, Hollywood and the Oscars". CBC. January 16, 2015.
  21. ^ a b c d e "Louis Gossett Jr". www.goldenglobes.com. Retrieved 2022-12-20.
  22. ^ Hurst, John V. (October 30, 1983). "Playing Sadat, with mind, spirit". The Sacramento Bee. pp. Tv Today 3.
  23. ^ "Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie Nominees / Winners 1984". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-19.
  24. ^ "A GATHERING OF OLD MEN - Festival de Cannes". www.festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2022-12-04.
  25. ^ "Festival de Cannes: A Gathering of Old Men". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  26. ^ O'Connor, John J. (May 10, 1987). ""Old men" is memorable TV drame". The South Bend Tribune. pp. C9.
  27. ^ "Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie Nominees / Winners 1987". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-19.
  28. ^ "'Bonnie & Clyde' director Arthur Penn is at home on Cable". Corvallis Gazette-Times. August 24, 1996. pp. B6.
  29. ^ "Inside". TVGuide.com. Retrieved 2022-12-20.
  30. ^ a b Variety Staff (1997-09-24). "CableAce Nominations". Variety. Retrieved 2022-12-20.
  31. ^ "Sunday prime time". Hartford Courant. February 23, 1997. pp. TV Week 18.
  32. ^ "Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series Nominees / Winners 1997". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-18.
  33. ^ Amazon.Com Candlelight CD Gosset Jraccessed 08-18-2023
  34. ^ "The Word of Promise: Cast". Word of Promise. Thomas Nelson Publishing. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  35. ^ Groves, Martha (16 November 2009). "BELIEFS : Stars lined up for elaborate audio Bible : Michael York, Jason Alexander and many others gave voice to a 79-CD reading of Old and New Testaments". LA Times. Archived from the original on 14 February 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  36. ^ Morgan, Jennifer Wilde (February 23, 2016). Come to the Garden: A Novel. Simon and Schuster. p. 200. ISBN 9781501131332.
  37. ^ "Watchmen". TVGuide.com. Retrieved 2022-12-19.
  38. ^ "Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie Nominees / Winners 2020". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-19.
  39. ^ a b c d "Black Reel Awards for TV -Past Winners & Nominees by Category". Black Reel Awards. Archived from the original on December 20, 2022. Retrieved 2022-12-20.
  40. ^ "Louis Gossett Jr". Superior Pics. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  41. ^ "Academy Award-Winning Actor Louis Gossett Jr. Talks With "CBS Sunday Morning" About Acting, His First Brush With Racism in Hollywood and Activism". Viacom CBS. July 17, 2020. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  42. ^ Abrams, Natalie (9 February 2010). "Louis Gossett Jr. Diagnosed with Cancer". TVGuide.com. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  43. ^ Moring, Mark (23 February 2011). "A Healing Journey". Christianity Today. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  44. ^ "Louis Gossett Jr. Hospitalized with COVID, But Left Out of Fear". TMZ. December 31, 2020. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  45. ^ "1983 | Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". www.oscars.org. Retrieved 2022-12-21.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h "Louis Gossett Jr". Television Academy. Retrieved 2022-12-21.