Richard Roundtree, who starred as detective John Shaft in a series of action thrillers, died Tuesday. He was 81.
Roundtree died at his home in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer, his manager told media outlets.
“Richard’s work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film,” the manager, Patrick McMinn, told Variety in his statement. “The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated.”
Roundtree had a long and storied career in Hollywood, appearing across television and film for more than four decades. HIs first major role came with “Shaft” in 1971, when he was 28, his feature debut in the early days of the Blaxploitation film movement.
“I constantly deal with being called Shaft, and it never ceases to blow me away with the impact that character had on my life and my fans’ lives,” Roundtree said in an interview in 2022.
He went on to act in a series of “Shaft” sequels and a brief TV series before moving on to many other film and television projects. Those included roles in the iconic miniseries “Roots.”
Roundtree was a breast cancer survivor after being diagnosed in 1993 and became an advocate for treatment and awareness surrounding the condition.
“Not talking about my cancer was really tough,” he said in an interview in 2009. “And now that I do talk about it all the time, it’s really become a backhanded blessing. I was getting on a plane recently and a flight attendant ran up to me and said, ‘You saved my husband’s life.’”
Tributes poured in from those who worked with Roundtree. Gabrielle Union, who starred with him in the series “Being Mary Jane,” described the actor as “simply the best.”
“Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream,” Union 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.”
“We all loved him,” she added.
(this story has not been edited by TSA Mag staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)