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Richard Roundtree, Star of ‘Shaft,’ dies at 81


Richard Roundtree, Star of ‘Shaft,’ dies at 81

Richard Roundtree,who is known for playing the titular character in the groundbreaking “Shaft” franchise.

He redefined African American masculinity in the movies when he played the title role in “Shaft,” one of the first Black action heroes, died on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.

After beginning his career in modeling, he secured “Shaft” at the age of 28, marking his feature debut. The character John Shaft is, a private detective who jaywalks through moving Times Square traffic in brown leather coat with the collar turned up; sports a robust, dark mustache ; and keeps a pearl-handled revolver in the fridge in his Greenwich Village duplex apartment.

The commercial success of “Shaft” launched a short-lived and small wave of major studio films focused on strong Black protagonists in Hollywood. And it provided Roundtree with many acting opportunities, his face sometimes appearing to be everywhere on screen.

His manager, Patrick McMinn, confirmed his passing in a statement. He said Roundtree had pancreatic cancer and died Tuesday afternoon.

“Artists & Representatives Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree.  Richard’s work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film,” Patrick McMinn said. “The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated.”

Gabrielle Union, actress, shared a tribute to  Richard Roundtree on X (Twitter), reposting images showing the pair from their time together on the TV series “Being Mary Jane”

Jackson, who co-starred with Roundtree in the “Shaft”, called the late actor “The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!!” in an Instagram tribute.

“His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too,” Jackson continued. “Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle of Main Street in Heaven & Issac’s Conducting your song coat blowin’ in wind!! Angels whispering.”

Cheo Coker, the creator of the Netflix comic action hero series “Luke Cage,” said on X (Twitter) : “My hero. A huge inspiration for Luke Cage.”


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