In Summary

  • Roundtree shot to fame with the 1971 Blaxploitation movie Shaft
  • He played Gabrielle Union’s father in the BET series Being Mary Jane.
  • Roundtree was born in New Rochelle, New York, in 1942

Richard Roundtree, the stage and screen actor best known for his performance as a tough-talking private eye in 1971’s “Shaft,” has died, according to multiple reports.

Roundtree, 81, died in Los Angeles after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer’

“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,” Artists & Representatives, the agency that represented the late actor, said in a statement.

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Richard Roundtree in the 1971 film ‘Shaft,’ which made him a star.Credit…John Kisch Archive/Getty Images

 Richard Roundtree Shot to Fame

Roundtree’s career in film and television spanned more than 50 years, including his appearance in five “Shaft” movies and a notable role as Sam Bennett in the iconic 1977 TV miniseries “Roots.”

Richard Roundtree (Phto Courtesy)


Among his more poignant films was 1996’s Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored, the story a tight-knit Black community confronting the racism of post-war Mississippi.

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 His role in Being Mary Jane

Gabrielle Union and Richard Roundtree star in BET’s first original film,”Being Mary Jane.”Handout


In the 2010s he was reintroduced to younger audiences when he played Gabrielle Union’s father in the BET series Being Mary Jane.

“Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream … He was simply the best & we all loved him,” Union tweeted.

Roundtree was born in New Rochelle, New York, in 1942. He went to Southern Illinois University in the early 1960s on a football scholarship, but left college early to pursue a modeling career. In 1967 he joined the Negro Ensemble Company to begin his life as an actor..

He was married twice and is survived by four daughters – Nicole, Tayler, Morgan and Kelli Roundtree – and his son, James.



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