Oscar-Winning Actor Louis Gossett Jr. Dead At 87

Actor Louis Gossett Jr. attends the Art For Amnesty Pre-Golden Globes Recognition Brunch at Chateau Marmont on January 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Amnesty International USA

Oscar-winning star Louis Gossett Jr., who won an Academy Award for his role in “An Officer and a Gentleman” has died, according to a statement from his family. He was 87.

“It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning,” the statement from his family read, which was shared by Gossett’s longtime publicist, CNN reported.

“We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time,” the statement added. “Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

On Friday, Gossett’s first cousin Neal L. Gossett told the Associated Press that the actor died in Santa Monica, California. However, a cause of death has not yet been revealed.

Gossett’s breakout role came when he landed the part of Fiddler in the 1977 TV mini-series “Roots.” The cast included LeVar Burton, John Amos, and Ben Vereen, the AP noted. The part scored him his first Emmy award.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1936, Gossett said he became interested in acting during high school when he couldn’t play basketball because he was sidelined with an injury, the AP noted.

With the encouragement of his English teacher, he said he went to Manhattan and landed a role on Broadway in 1953 at the age of 16.

“I knew too little to be nervous,” Gossett wrote in his 2010 memoir, “An Actor and a Gentleman.” “In retrospect, I should have been scared to death as I walked onto that stage, but I wasn’t.”


He would go on to attend New York University and become a star on Broadway for his roles in shows like “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Golden Boy,” while also appearing in TV shows.

Gossett headed to Hollywood and his movie career took off in the 80s with the 1983 romantic comedy “An Officer and a Gentleman.” He played the part of the intimidating Marine drill instructor, alongside stars Debra Winger and Richard Gere. Gossett not only became the first black man to win a supporting actor Oscar for the role, but he also won a Golden Globe for the part.

“More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a black actor,” the star wrote in his memoir.

“The Oscar gave me the ability of being able to choose good parts in movies like ‘Enemy Mine,’ ‘Sadat’ and ‘Iron Eagle,'” Gossett said in Dave Karger’s 2024 book “50 Oscar Nights.”

He also founded the Eracism Foundation to fight racism, something he said he experienced first hand during his time in Hollywood, CNN noted.

“I had to really learn the importance of what it takes to survive in this town, and I had to act as if I was second class,” the actor said. “I had to ingest the onus of being an African American person in America.”

He is survived by sons Satie and Sharron Gossett.

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