November 30, 2023

ABOVE PHOTO: Richard Roundtree  (Editorial credit score: s_bukley / )

By Jonathan Landrum Jr.


LOS ANGELES — Richard Roundtree, the trailblazing actor who starred because the ultra-smooth non-public detective in a number of “Shaft” movies starting within the early Seventies, has died. He was 81.

Roundtree’s longtime supervisor, Patrick McMinn, mentioned the actor had been identified with pancreatic most cancers and died at his house in Los Angeles on Tuesday. He was identified with breast most cancers in 1993 and underwent a double mastectomy.

“Richard’s work and profession served as a turning level for African American main males,” McMinn mentioned. “The impression he had on the trade can’t be overstated.”

Roundtree, who was born in New Rochelle, New York, was thought of as the primary Black motion hero and have become one of many main actors within the blaxploitation style by means of his New York road sensible John Shaft character within the Gordon Parks-directed movie in 1971. At age 28, it was Roundtree’s first characteristic movie look after beginning his profession as a mannequin.

Roundtree’s “Shaft” was a part of a change in how Black motion pictures had been considered in Hollywood, which did not contemplate Black actors — particularly for main roles — in initiatives on the time. The blaxploitation movies had been primarily aimed on the African American audiences.

RICHARD ROUNDTREE, LEFT, WITH DIRECTOR GORDON PARKS throughout filming in New York of film “Shaft’s Massive Rating!” on March 9, 1972. (AP Photograph/Ron Frehm)

Within the movie, his character navigated the world of thugs. He commonly whipped out well-liked one-liners like “It’s my obligation to please that booty.”

“What we had been doing was a superb, previous Saturday afternoon shoot ’em up,” Roundtree mentioned in a 2000 interview with The Related Press.

Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” theme music — which included the road “You a nasty mom— (Shut your mouth)” — helped insinuate the unique film into the pop-cult consciousness. The singer, who died in 2008, mentioned the music was “just like the ‘shot heard around the world.” His single gained an Academy Award for greatest music in 1971 and two Grammys the next yr.

After the movie’s success, Roundtree returned in sequels “Shaft’s Massive Rating” in 1972 and “Shaft in Africa” in 1973. That very same yr, he performed the savvy detective as soon as once more on the CBS tv collection “Shaft,” which lasted solely seven episodes.

JESSIE T. USHER, LEFT, SAMUEL L. JACKSON AND RICHARD ROUNDTREE attend the premiere of “Shaft,” at AMC Lincoln Sq., Monday, June 10, 2019, in New York. (Photograph by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Roundtree reprised his position within the 2000 “Shaft” movie, a revival that starred Samuel L. Jackson. He appeared as Jackson’s uncle within the big-budget movie that was aimed on the normal viewers. Each appeared once more in the identical roles within the 2019 movie starring Jessie T. Usher.

Jackson known as Roundtree the “prototype” and the “greatest to ever do it” in a social media put up.

“SHAFT, as we all know it’s & will at all times be his Creation,” he mentioned of Roundtree. “His passing leaves a deep gap not solely in my coronary heart, however I’m certain a lotta y’all’s, too.”

By way of his 50-plus yr profession, Roundtree appeared in various different notable movies together with “Earthquake,” “Man Friday” with Peter O’Toole, “Roots,” “Maniac Cop” “Se7en” and “What Males Need” starring Taraji P. Henson. He additionally made his mark with tv roles on “Magnum P.I.,” “The Love Boat,” “Being Mary Jane” and “The Love Boat.”

In 1995, Roundtree obtained a lifetime achievement award on the MTV Film & TV awards.