Louis Gossett Jr.
Gossett in 2017
Born
Louis Cameron Gossett Jr.

(1936-05-27) May 27, 1936 (age 87)
New York City, U.S.
Occupations
  • Actor
  • director
  • producer
  • activist
Years active1953–present
Spouses
  • Hattie Glascoe
    (m. 1967; annul. 1968)
  • Christina Mangosing
    (m. 1973; div. 1975)
  • Cyndi James-Reese
    (m. 1987; div. 1992)
Children2
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 continued acting onstage in critically acclaimed plays these include A Raisin in the Sun (1959), The Blacks (1961), Tambourines to Glory (1963) and The Zulu and the Zayda (1965). Also, Gossett added many roles in films and on television to his résumé, as well as released 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, television, plays, and video games. 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 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, and NAACP Image Awards. Gossett is also well-known for his role as Colonel Chappy Sinclair in the Iron Eagle film series (1986-1995).

Since his beginnings, Gossett has appeared in a wide range of projects. Other film appearances 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), and Jasper, Texas (2003), and television appearances include Bonanza (1971), The Jeffersons (1975), American Playhouse (1990), Stargate SG-1 (2005), Boardwalk Empire (2013), and The Book of Negroes (2015).

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]

Career

1953–1977: Early works 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]

On October 24, 1955, the Broadway play The Desk Set started its run, with Gossett acting in it. The show had 297 performances and closed on July 7, 1956.[4] Its a comedy about office workers. On its 200th performance, Jack Y. Kohl's The Morning Call review praised the entire cast.[5]

In 1959, continuing his Broadway career, Gossett played the role of George Murchison in A Raisin in the Sun. The story tells of a black family's experiences in south Chicago, as they attempt to improve their financial circumstances.[6] The character of Murchison represents the "fully assimilated black man" who denies his African heritage with a "smarter than thou" attitude.[7] The play received rave reviews.[8] In Boyd Martin's review in The Courier Journal said that the play is "magnificently played by the entire cast."[9] It won best play at the New York Drama Critics' Circle.[10]

During the early 1960s, Gossett was considered to be a talented folk musician, for which he was well known.[11] His singing career was helped along with appearing at the Folk City venue in New York.[12]

In 1961, Gossett had his cinematic debut with the film adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun.[13] Due to the critical acclaim of the play, Columbia Pictures bought the film rights. Most of the original cast, including Gossett, returned to their roles. The film, just like the play, received excellent reviews.[14]

Also in 1961, Gossett appeared in the original cast of Jean Genet's The Blacks, the longest running off-Broadway play of the decade, running for 1,408 performances. The original cast also featured James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Cicely Tyson, Godfrey Cambridge, Maya Angelou and Charles Gordone.[15]

In 1963, Gossett acted in the Broadway play Tambourines to Glory.[16] William Glover in his review published in The Bee, describes it as the first Broadway play with a gospel score, and praised the entirety of the cast for their energy and vocals.[17]

In 1964, Gossett acted in the Broadway play Golden Boy.[18] Also that year, he signed to Powertree Records. Gossett's single, "Hooka' Dooka', Green Green" / "Goodmornin' Captain" was released in early 1964.[19] Later in May, "Red Rosy Bush" / "See See Rider" was released.[20]

In 1965, Gossett appeared in the musical play The Zulu and the Zayda on Broadway as Paulus with music and lyrics by Harold J. Rome.[21] A December, 1965 review of The Zulu, original cast recording that was released on Columbia Records noted Menasha Skulnik and Gossett's vocal performance of "It's Good to Be Alive.[22]

In 1966, Gossett acted in the Broadway play My Sweet Charlie.[23] Gossett wrote the antiwar folk song "Handsome Johnny" with Richie Havens; Havens recorded the song in 1966.[citation needed]

Cast of ABC TV series The Young Rebels (1970): From left-Alex Henteloff, Rick Ely, Philippe Forquet, and Gossett.
Gossett with Esther Rolle in a publicity photo for Good Times in 1976

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 Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson which resulted in a standing ovation that lasted through two commercial breaks.[24] 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."[25]

In 1968, Gossett acted in the play Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights.[26] In the spring of 1969, Gossett was listed among the actors who could not be determined or uncredited in Stuart Rosenberg's WUSA.[27]

In 1970, his album From Me to You was released on B.T. Puppy Records BTPS-1013. It contained some of his own compositions.[28][29]

In 1971, Gossett acted in Paul Bogart's Skin Game.[30] That year Gossett was cast in a film adaptation of the novel Finding Maubee, however the project went dormant, and was released as The Mighty Quinn in 1989 with another cast.[31] On February 7, Gossett acted in "The Desperado", a Bonanza episode.[32] Also that year he acted in the play Murderous Angels,[33] which is about an investigation regarding Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. In his Daily News review Douglas Watt said that Gossett's performance as Lumumba was "extremely convincing."[34]

In 1972, Gossett acted in George Cukor's Travels with My Aunt.[35] He was announced to act in a starring role in Brian De Palma's Sisters, but had to withdraw due to scheduling conflict,[36] and to play a gang leader in Barry Shear's Across 110th Street, but he is not in the finished product.[37]

In 1973, Gossett acted in Stuart Rosenberg's The Laughing Policeman.[38] In 1974, Gossett acted in Philip Kaufman's The White Dawn.[39] In 1975, he played O'Flaherty in the "Clark Templeton O'Flaherty" episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. On November 22, 1975, Gossett acted in "George's Best Friend", an episode of The Jeffersons.[40]

In 1976, Gossett acted in films including Arthur Marks's J. D.'s Revenge,[41] and Krishna Shah's The River Niger.[42]

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.[43] 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.[44]

That year in films, Gossett acted in Robert Aldrich's The Choirboys,[45] and Peter Yates's The Deep.[46] In Yates's film, an underwater thriller, Gossett played the lead villain.[47] It was the eighth-highest-grossing film of 1977 in the United States and Canada with a gross of $47.3 million.[48][49] Overseas, the film was Columbia's highest-grossing film and grossed over $100 million worldwide.[50][51]

1978–1997: Subsequent success and continued acclaim

Richard Pryor with Louis Gossett Jr. in 1978

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.[52] At the Emmy Awards, Gossett was nominated for "Outstanding continuing or single performance by a supporting actor in variety or music".[53]

On the 28th of January 1979, the mini-series Backstairs at the White House premiered.[54] It is about White House servants who work 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".[55]

In 1981, Gossett was a guest star in an episode of the television series Palmerstown, U.S.A..[56] For his performance Gossett was nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.[57]

In 1982, Gossett's role as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in Taylor Hackford's 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,[58] 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,[59] and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards.[citation needed] Also that year, Gossett was also starring in the science fiction series, The Powers of Matthew Star which lasted until 1983.

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.[60] For his performance, Gossett was nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series,[61] and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film.[59] That same year, Gossett acted in Joe Alves's Jaws 3-D.[62]

In 1984 Gossett acted in Richard Lester's Finders Keepers.[63] In 1985, Gossett co-starred with Dennis Quaid in Wolfgang Petersen's Enemy Mine.[64]

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.[65] While it was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival,[66] it was released as television film in the US.[67] For his performance, Gossett was nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special.[68] Also that year he acted in Christopher Cain's The Principal.[69]

In 1988, Gossett reunited with director Sidney J. Furie for Iron Eagle II.[70] It made $10,497,324 at the U.S. box office.[71]

In 1989, Gossett co-starred in the Marvel Comics adaptation The Punisher, with Dolph Lundgren in the title role. The film was directed by Mark Goldblatt, with a screenplay by Boaz Yakin. The Punisher was filmed in Sydney, Australia and also featured Jeroen Krabbé, Kim Miyori, and Barry Otto.[72]

On February 14, 1990, Gossett acted in Zora Is My Name!, an episode of American Playhouse.[73]

In 1991, Gossett acted in Manny Coto's Cover Up,[74] and Daniel Petrie's Toy Soldiers.[75] On March 16, HBO premiered the television film The Josephine Baker Story.[76] For his acting, Gossett won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.[59] In 1992, he provided additional narration for Bill Miles and Nina Rosenblum's documentary film The Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II.[77] Gossett returned to the role of Chappy in Aces: Iron Eagle III directed by John Glen,[78] and acted in Michael Ritchie's Diggstown.[79] In 1994, Gossett acted in Bruce Beresford's A Good Man in Africa.[80] In 1995, Gossett returned to the role of Chappy and reunited with director Sidney J. Furie for Iron Eagle IV.[81] In 1996, Gossett acted in the Broadway play Chicago.[82] That year he acted in Arthur Penn's film Inside which was screened at Cannes before being released as a television film,[83] where he also served as an executive producer.[84] For his effort Gossett received a CableACE Award nomination for "Best actor in a movie or mini-series".[85] In 1997, Gossett had a guest role in the Touched by an Angel episode "Amazing Grace: Part 1".[86] For his performance he was nominated for an Emmy Award for "Outstanding guest actor in a drama series".[87] In 1997, Gossett's narration of Disney's Candlelight Processional, telling the nativity story, was recorded and released by Walt Disney Records.[88]

1998–present: Established actor

Louis Gossett Jr. with Eugene Levy in 2017

In 1998, Gossett acted Bram Stoker's Legend of the Mummy.[89] In 2004, Gossett voiced the Vortigaunts in the video game Half-Life 2.[citation needed] In the 2005 film Left Behind: World at War, he played the role of the U.S. President.[90] That year on television, he played Free Jaffa Leader Gerak in several episodes of Season 9 of the sci-fi television series Stargate SG-1.[91]

In 2007, he acted in Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls.[92] That year, he provided the voice of Lucius Fox in The Batman animated series.[citation needed] In 2008, he filmed the "Keep It Real" series of commercials for the Namibian lager Windhoek.[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.[93][94]

In 2011, Gossett acted in film The Grace Card.[95] 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.[96] He also acted in "Havre de grace", an episode of the acclaimed HBO drama series Boardwalk Empire in 2013.[97] From 2014 to 2015 he acted in a recurring role in Extant. He also appeared in Madam Secretary and The Book of Negroes.[98][99] Gossett returned to television in the CBS All Access series, The Good Fight, guest starring as founding partner Carl Reddick of Diane Lockhart's new firm.[100]

Gossett Jr. at the Guadalajara Film Festival

In 2019, Gossett acted in the series Watchmen.[101] For his performance he was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie,[102] and at the Black Reel Awards he received a nomination for "Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie/Limited Series".[103] On July 18, 2016, Gossett cohosted as a guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies' primetime lineup. Allowed to choose four movies to air, he selected Blackboard Jungle, Lifeboat, Touch of Evil and The Night of the Hunter. In 2021, Gossett appeared in the film Not to Forget (2021), which aims to raise awareness and funds for the fight against Alzheimer’s. The movie, directed by Valerio Zanoli, stars Karen Grassle and 5 Academy Award winners: Gossett Jr., Cloris Leachman, Tatum O’Neal, George Chakiris, and Olympia Dukakis.

In 2022, Gossett was cast in a supporting role for the upcoming American horror film, Awaken the Reaper.[104] The film also features performances by Lance Henriksen and Robin Curtis. Awaken the Reaper is directed by Justin Paul and Dave Campfield. The film is produced by Fourth Horizon Cinema, Impact Media Studios and Design Weapons. In 2023 he portrayed Ol' Mister in the 2023 remake of The Color Purple. The role was originally portrayed by Adolph Caesar in the Steven Spielberg-directed critically acclaimed 1985 film.

Personal life

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

Marriages

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.[105] 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.[106]

Health issues

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.[107][108] In late December 2020, Gossett was hospitalized in Georgia with COVID-19.[109]

Acting credits

Main article: Louis Gossett Jr. on screen and stage

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1983 Academy Award Best Supporting Actor An Officer and a Gentleman Won [110]
1983 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture An Officer and a Gentleman Won [59]
1984 Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film Sadat Nominated [59]
1992 Best Supporting Actor - Television The Josephine Baker Story Won [59]
1977 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series Roots Won [111]
1978 Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in Variety or Music The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His Roots Nominated [111]
1979 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special Backstairs at the White House Nominated [111]
1981 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Palmerstown, U.S.A. Nominated [111]
1984 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special Sadat Nominated [111]
1987 A Gathering of Old Men Nominated [111]
1997 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Touched by an Angel Nominated [111]
2020 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Watchmen Nominated [111]
2000 Black Reel Awards Outstanding Directing, TV Movie or Limited Series Love Songs Won [112]
2013 Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie/Limited Series Smitty Nominated [112]
2020 Watchmen Nominated [112]
1997 CableACE Awards Best Actor in a Movie or Mini-series Inside Nominated [85]
2023 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture The Color Purple Pending [113]

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