‘The Best to Ever Do It’

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Shaft star Richard Roundtree has died at the age of 81. Samuel L. Jackson, who starred in the 2000 and 2019 Shaft remakes, honored Roundtree’s memory in a touching tribute on Instagram following the news of his death. More of Roundtree’s co-stars and fans, like Gabrielle Union and Sheryl Lee Ralph, have also paid tribute to the late star.

Roundtree died on Tuesday, October 24 in his Los Angeles home surrounded by family. He died after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. The actor, dubbed the first Black action hero, was a groundbreaking figure in Hollywood history. Playing private eye John Shaft marked an historic shift in Hollywood. Thanks to the success of the Gordon Parks-directed action-thriller, Black characters became main characters of films and TV shows instead of being stuck as sidekicks. Shaft is considered one of the first of the Blaxpoitation genre, and its legacy echoes in Hollywood today.

Jackson starred in the Shaft reboot alongside Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Busta Rhymes, Toni Collette, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and more in the 2000 film, with Jessie T. Usher, Regina Hall, and Alexandra Shipp joining for the 2019 sequel. Jackson played John Shaft in the films, nephew of Roundtree’s iconic character. Roundtree made cameo appearances in each of the installations.

Jackson shared a photo from the 2019 movie in his tribute to Roundtree, calling him “the best to ever do it.”

“Richard Roundtree, The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!! SHAFT, as we know it is & will always be His Creation!!,” Jackson wrote in his caption. “His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too. Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle of Main Street in Heaven & Issac’s Conducting your song.”

One of Roundtree’s more recent roles was as Union’s father, Paul Patterson, Sr., in Being Mary Jane. Union paid tribute to Roundtree on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream,” she wrote. “Getting to hang with him & our Being Mary Jane family was always a good ass time with the best stories & laughs. He was ALWAYS the coolest man in the room with the BEST vibes & ppl would literally run over to come see him. He was simply the best & we all loved him. #RIPRichardRoundtree.”

Abbott Elementary star Ralph tweeted, “When I was a teenager I use to dream about growing up to meet Richard Roundtree. I did and what a wonderful human being.”

Tia Mowry, Roundtree’s Family Reunion co-star, paid tribute to the actor on Instagram with a behind-the-scenes photo featuring Loretta Devine and Anthony Alabi. “I have no words for this loss,” she wrote. “Richard, you have made such a lasting impact on my life. I am forever grateful for your warm energy, your light, your heart, and your incredible wisdom.”

See more Roundtree tributes below.

Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream. Getting to hang with him & our Being Mary Jane family was always a good ass time with the best stories & laughs. He was ALWAYS the coolest man in the room with the BEST vibes & ppl would literally run over to come see him. He was simply… pic.twitter.com/1N8fHVDsA6

— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 25, 2023

When I was a teenager I use to dream about growing up to meet Richard Roundtree. I did and what a wonderful human being. pic.twitter.com/1ZiIdj4d0o

— sheryl lee ralph (@thesherylralph) October 25, 2023

Sad to hear of the passing of Richard Roundtree.. He was fabulous as John Shaft at a time when there were few leading Black men in film. He put the sexy and cool in being a detective. Rest well. Condolences to his family. pic.twitter.com/9HNJHS6yUz

— Loni Love (@LoniLove) October 25, 2023

Saddened to hear about the passing of Richard Roundtree. A true icon who brought the epitome of cool to the big screen as the original Shaft. His charisma, talent, and trailblazing role will forever be etched in cinematic history.

Rest in power, Mr. Roundtree. https://t.co/w4HD2Rjch0

— Derrick Johnson (@DerrickNAACP) October 25, 2023

I just heard, the icon that is Richard Roundtree is gone. The original SHAFT!!! His performance influenced so many and so much. And he was a great guy! #NeverForgotten #BePeace

— Carl Weathers (@TheCarlWeathers) October 25, 2023

That cat SHAFT is a BAAAAD…..
( Those of a certain age….
…..know the rest )

Rest in Paradise Hero ❤️#RichardRoundtree pic.twitter.com/ZMLr7ZSpdi

— Ukee Washington (@UkeeWashington) October 25, 2023





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