Richard Roundtree, the actor who kicked off his successful film career with his famous role in the “Shaft” movie franchise, passed away after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 81 years old when he passed on the afternoon of October 24, his family at his bedside with him when he left this world.
Roundtree’s career lasted for much of the 20th century and nearly all of the 21st century that has yet occured, beginning with an appearance on “As the World Turns” in 1956. It then continued through 2022, when he appeared as a main cast member of the show “Cherish the Day.”
By far his most famous roles, however, were in a series of action thrillers in which he played a detective, John Shaft. The original “Shaft” movie came out in 1971 and did well enough that a succession of sequels followed, with “Shaft’s Big Score” coming out in 1972 and “Shaft in Africa” coming out in 1973, the same year as a “Shaft” TV series was attempted.
Deadline, commenting on Roundtree’s career success with the Shaft universe, said, “For his performance in the original film, Roundtree was nominated for a New Star of the Year Golden Globe and hailed as the first Black action hero. More importantly, the films made Shaft a cultural hero, a symbol of Black power onscreen, at the box office and beyond. The Academy took notice, as Isaac Hayes’ propulsive “Theme from Shaft” won the Oscar that year for Best Song – Original for the Picture.”
Actor Samuel Jackson posted on Instagram in remembrance of Roundtree and his role, saying, “Richard Roundtree, The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!! SHAFT, as we know it is & will always be His Creation!! 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🎶🎶👊🏾coat blowin’ in wind!! Angels whispering, “That Cat SHAFT Is A Bad Mutha, Shutcho Mouth!! But I’m Talkin’ Bout SHAFT!! THEN WE CAN DIGIT👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾‼️‼️‼️‼️💯💯💯💯🤎🤎🤎🤎🤎🤎🤎“
Similarly, his agency, in a statement, said, “Artists & Representatives Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree. His trailblazing career changed the face of entertainment around the globe and his enduring legacy will be felt for generations to come. Our hearts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Roundtree, commenting on his “Shaft” role in 2019 when speaking to NPR, said, “I used to look at it as a double-edged sword. But I’ve had so many people from all over the country — and all over the world actually — come up and say what that film meant to them back in ’71.” He added, “The other side of it is I got typecast for quite some time, and then I’ve gone out of my way to establish a different side of my acting.”
Featured image credit: By w:United States Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kristin Fitzsimmons (RELEASED) – Cropped from  at , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1701129
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