Actor Passes Away at 81

Actor Passes Away at 81

( – Born in New York in 1942, actor Richard Roundtree grew up to play one of the most memorable characters of all time. The talented artist landed a role in 1971 as playing private detective John Shaft in the “Shaft” franchise, wearing his signature long leather coat over his turtleneck sweater while taking down the bad guys. But Roundtree was more than Shaft — the actor accumulated 159 acting credits over his 56-year career. Sadly, the artist has made the last of his films.

On October 24, the actor’s manager, Patrick McMinn, confirmed to People that the actor died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 81. He passed away at his home in Los Angeles, California, with his family by his bedside. Roundtree’s agency stated he “changed the face of entertainment” throughout his “trailblazing career.” Actor Samuel L. Jackson, who worked beside Roundtree in the “Shaft” sequels, also paid tribute to his co-star and friend.

Jackson posted a message on social media, calling Roundtree “The Prototype” for Shaft, and that character was and “will always be his creation.” Jackson said he imagined the actor was taking his Shaft swagger down “the middle of Main Street in heaven” — his iconic long coat catching the wind. Fellow actor Gabrielle Union described Roundtree as “always the coolest man in the room.” The pair worked together on BET TV’s “Being Mary Jane.”

While Roundtree ultimately ended up on stage, TV, and in films, he started his adult life on the football field, having earned a scholarship to play the sport at Southern Illinois University in 1961. But in 1963, he decided to follow his dream of modeling and acting. After a brief modeling stint with Ebony magazine, the actor landed his first role in 1967 as a boxing champion in “The Great White Hope.” A few years later, he became Shaft, and the rest was history.

Some of Roundtree’s other credits include playing Sam Bennett in “Roots” and other roles in “Earthquake,” “Man Friday,” “Inchon,” and “City Heat.” He leaves behind an acting legacy and his five children.

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