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Actor Richard Roundtree Dies at 81

Popular actor and star in ‘Shaft’ Richard Roundtree has passed away at 81 years. The actor, who starred as detective John Shaft in the Shaft movie series, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.


His management announced that he passed away on Tuesday at home in Los Angeles, surrounded by his family. Despite the fact that Roundtree’s career lasted five decades, his role as Detective John Shaft in the 1971 action film cemented his status as the first Black action hero. He later starred in the prequels “Shaft’s Big Score!,” “Shaft in Africa,” and the brief “Shaft” TV series that aired in 1973.

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Shaft by Roundtree contributed to a shift in Hollywood’s perception of Black cinema, which at the time failed to take Black actors into account, particularly for prominent roles. African-American audiences were the target audience for the blaxploitation movies. His character in the movie learned how to live among thugs. It was common for him to utter catchphrases like “It’s my duty to please that booty.”

Richard Roundtree
Deceased Actor Richard Roundtree. Photo: AP

His manager, Patrick McMinn, paid tribute to the actor, whose “work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film,” in a statement on Wednesday. The Hollywood Reporter quoted him as saying, “The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated.” In an homage to the actor, fellow celebrity Samuel L Jackson wrote that he was “the prototype, the best to ever do it.”

Along with “Se7en,” “George of the Jungle,” “Body of Influence,” “Amityville: A New Generation,” and “What Men Want,” Roundtree also starred in “Inchon” (1981), “City Heat,” and “City Heat II,” all starring Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. His final appearance in a major motion picture was in the comedy “Moving On” in 2022.

His television acting achievements include the renowned 1977 miniseries “Roots,” in which he played slave Sam Bennett. The programs “Generations,” “413 Hope St.,” “Alias,” “Diary of a Single Mom,” “Buddies,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Soul Food,” “Being Mary Jane,” and “Family Reunion” were among the other credits. In addition, season 2 of Ava DuVernay’s OWN series “Cherish the Day” debuted in 2022.

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The renowned actor was married twice; the first time was in 1962 to Mary Hane Grant, and the second time was in 1980 to Karen Ciernia; they divorced in 1998. Two of his five children were raised by his first wife Grant, and three of them by his second wife Ciernia.


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