Louis Gossett Jr., Emmy and Oscar Winning Actor, Dies at 87

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Louis Gossett Jr., the Oscar-winning star of An Officer and a Gentlemen, has died. According to the Associated Press, Gossett passed away Friday morning in Santa Monica, California. His family has not revealed a cause of death. He was 87 years old.

Born in Brooklyn in 1936, Gossett attended NYU, where he studied theater. (A high school English teacher had encouraged him to try out for a role on Broadway — and he got the part, at age 16, in Take a Giant Step.) He had decades of success on stage, on film, and on television. After working regularly on Broadway all through the 1960s and into the 1970s, he had his screen breakthrough as Fiddler in the landmark TV miniseries Roots, which won him an Emmy Award .

After Roots his career in Hollywood took off, and a few years later Gossett won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the stern gunnery sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman. Gossett was just the first African American to win that specific Academy Award, and only the third overall to win an Oscar for acting.

Some of Gossett’ other film credits include The Landlord, J.D.’s Revenge, Jaws 3-D, Enemy Mine, Iron Eagle, The Punisher, Blue Chips, and The Perfect Game. On television, you might have seen him on shows ranging from Bonanza to The Mod Squad toLittle House on the Prairie to The Rockford Files to Touched By an Angel. His Broadway work included appearances in The Desk Set, A Raisin in the Sun, The Zulu and the Zayda, and Chicago.

Gossett continued working steadily through his later years. He appeared as Ol’ Mister in the musical version of The Color Purple that premiered last year, and he’ll soon be heard as the voice of one of the characters in IF, the Ryan Reynolds comedy about a man who can talk to kids’ imaginary friends. Gossett leaves behind an impressive body of work marked by unforgettable performances.

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