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Oscar-winning legend Louis Gossett Jr dies aged 87: Colman Domingo leads tributes

The New York-born star was the first Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar

Louis Gossett Jr.
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
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Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win a Supporting Actor Oscar, has passed away aged 87. 

The actor's death was confirmed in a statement released by his family on Friday morning. No cause of death was given. "It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning," the statement read.

"We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time. Please respect the family's privacy during this difficult time."

Louis Gossett Jr. in The Color Purple© Warner Bros
Louis Gossett Jr.'s last role was in The Color Purple

The New York-born star became the third black Oscar nominee in the supporting actor category in 1983, and went on to win the award for his portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer And A Gentleman opposite Richard Gere and Debra Winger in 1982.

Reflecting on his win in his 2010 memoir, An Actor and a Gentleman, Louis wrote: "More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a Black actor."

Louis Gossett Jr and Richard Gere in An Officer and A Gentleman© Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock
Louis starred opposite Richard Gere in An Officer and A Gentleman

Contributing to film expert Dave Karger's 2024 book, 50 Oscar Nights, he penned: "The Oscar gave me the ability of being able to choose good parts in movies like Enemy Mine, Sadat and Iron Eagle."

Louis Gossett Jr. in The Punisher (1989)© Twentieth Century Fox
Louis was an Oscar-winning actor

Louis made his Broadway debut at age 16 and later gained critical acclaim for his role in the 1959 production of A Raisin in the Sun. He went on to play Fiddler in the 1977 TV miniseries Roots, which won him an Emmy Award. 

His final role was in the 2023 musical remake of The Color Purple, in which he played patriarch Ol' Mister Johnson, starring alongside Halle Bailey, Danielle Brooks and Colman Domingo.

Louis Gossett Jr. in Boardwalk Empire© 2015 Home Box Office
Louis as Oscar Boneau in Boardwalk Empire

Taking to Instagram, Colman paid tribute to his late co-star, writing: "We lost a true great. A true legend. What an honor to have been able to give him his flowers on his last day of his final film The Color Purple where he played my father. Fantasia sang it best…He ran his race for us. 

"We are forever indebted. May we stand firmly on his shoulders. Lift him up today. R.I.P."

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Meanwhile, Fantasia Barrino, who also starred in the film, penned: "Louis Gossett Jr. What an awesome man you were and the stories you told us, I'll never ever forget. 

"You left behind so many tokens for us and paved the way for Black Actors and Actresses. You will be missed, but Man did you Live a Blessed Life. #WeLoveYouForever."

Another co-star, David Alan Grier, also took to social media with memories of Louis. "Rest in peace Lou Gossett Jr. one of my fave acting heroes," he wrote. "Hung out with him years ago at the Toronto film festival…I bailed at 2 AM as he bid me good evening and strolled down the street with a girl on each arm. I saw him at breakfast the next morning lookin fresh as a daisy he winked at me n said, 'You couldn't hang, could you?' My man!!!!!!"

Louis is survived by his children, a son named Satie, a producer and director from his second marriage, and an adopted son Sharron, who works as a chef. His first cousin is actor Robert Gossett.

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