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Louis Gossett

Louis Gossett

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Also Known As: Lou Gossett Died:
Born: May 27, 1936 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: actor, director, producer, basketball player, nightclub singer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Having been an acclaimed performer on stage and decorated for his work on screen, actor Louis Gossett, Jr. was unable to sustain the kind of quality career worthy of someone who has won both an Emmy and Academy Award. After making a splash on Broadway while only 16 years old, Gossett made his name with acclaimed performances in "The Desk Set" (1955) and "A Raisin in the Sun" (1959), while making slower strides on television and in feature films. He finally became a star with his Emmy-winning performance in the groundbreaking miniseries, "Roots" (ABC, 1977), which opened fewer doors than one would have imagined. With his strong performance as a tough-as-nails drill sergeant in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982), Gossett became the first African-American to win an Academy Awards since Sidney Poitier in 1964. But the offers for quality material failed to roll in, which plunged the actor into a depression made worse by drug and alcohol abuse. He managed to pull himself out of his rut with numerous made-for-television movies and a well-liked role as an Air Force colonel in "Iron Eagle" (1985). Though sometimes confined to rather forgettable straight-to-video thrillers, Gossett's long and varied career...

Having been an acclaimed performer on stage and decorated for his work on screen, actor Louis Gossett, Jr. was unable to sustain the kind of quality career worthy of someone who has won both an Emmy and Academy Award. After making a splash on Broadway while only 16 years old, Gossett made his name with acclaimed performances in "The Desk Set" (1955) and "A Raisin in the Sun" (1959), while making slower strides on television and in feature films. He finally became a star with his Emmy-winning performance in the groundbreaking miniseries, "Roots" (ABC, 1977), which opened fewer doors than one would have imagined. With his strong performance as a tough-as-nails drill sergeant in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982), Gossett became the first African-American to win an Academy Awards since Sidney Poitier in 1964. But the offers for quality material failed to roll in, which plunged the actor into a depression made worse by drug and alcohol abuse. He managed to pull himself out of his rut with numerous made-for-television movies and a well-liked role as an Air Force colonel in "Iron Eagle" (1985). Though sometimes confined to rather forgettable straight-to-video thrillers, Gossett's long and varied career allowed him to be regarded as one of the more respected performers of his generation.

Born on May 27, 1936 in Brooklyn, NY, Gossett was raised by his father, Louis Sr., a porter for the local gas company who eventually became head of the billing department, and his mother, Helen, a maid and nurse who was able to quit her job and earn her high school diploma once her son achieved early success. Having been a lettered athlete in baseball, basketball and track at Abraham Lincoln High School, Gossett suffered an injury that forced him to put aside his sports ambitions for a time. But a silver lining appeared when he filled his spare time by taking an acting class in school, making his stage debut in a production of "You Can't Take It With You" in his teens. At age 16, Gossett made Broadway history by appearing as a star in "Take a Giant Step" (1953), a role the untrained actor earned after beating out 400 hopefuls. Setting his sights on an acting career, he concentrated collegiate efforts at New York University on earning his bachelor's in theater, training with the likes of Frank Silvera, Nola Chilton and Lloyd Richards.

While still attending NYU and playing basketball on the team, Gossett made his television debut on the anthology series, "The Philco Television Playhouse" (NBC, 1948-1955), followed by a return to Broadway in support of star Shirley Booth in a production of "The Desk Set" (1955). Meanwhile, his play on the basketball court for NYU garnered enough interest from the New York Knicks to be invited to rookie training camp after graduating in 1959. But finding the camp physically taxing on his body, which was already ravaged by injury, he decided instead to turn down the offer and take a role in Lorraine Hansberry's ground-breaking Broadway drama, "A Raisin in the Sun" (1959). Making his feature film debut, he reprised his role as George Murchison opposite Sidney Poitier in the 1961 film version of the play. While maintaining a steady presence as a nightclub singer at clubs like The Bitter End, Black Pussy Cat and Gaslight Club, Gossett continued his love affair with the New York stage, acting in such productions as the musical version of "Golden Boy" (1964), "My Sweet Charlie" (1966) and "Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights" (1968).

Though the stage remained a favorite place to perform for the actor, Gossett also began appearing more frequently on television, logging episodes of "The Defenders" (CBS, 1961-65), "Daktari" (CBS, 1966-69) and "The Mod Squad" (ABC, 1968-1973). This exposure led to his first regular series role as 18th-century blacksmith Isak Poole in "The Young Rebels" (ABC, 1970-71), which ran for a scant 13 episodes before being canceled. Although he appeared in only one feature film during the 1960s, Gossett's big screen reputation grew quickly in the 1970s with critically acclaimed work in comedies like "The Landlord" (1970) and "Travels with My Aunt" (1972). Following co-starring turns in "The Laughing Policeman" (1973) and "The White Dawn" (1974), he delivered a strong performance opposite James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson in the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning drama, "The River Niger" (1975). Gossett's popularity soared exponentially on the strength of his eloquent, Emmy-winning portrayal of Fiddler in the landmark miniseries "Roots" (ABC, 1977), which he followed with a riveting performance as a drug-dealing cutthroat stalking Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in "The Deep" (1977).

Gossett portrayed Dr MacArthur St Clair in the short-lived medical drama "The Lazarus Syndrome" (ABC, 1979), delivered an Emmy-nominated turn as a faithful butler in the miniseries "Backstairs at the White House" (NBC, 1979) and lent his athleticism to the part of baseball great Satchel Paige in the biopic "Don't Look Back" (ABC, 1981). Gossett reached the height of his acting profession with his turn as the tough-as-nails, by-the-book drill sergeant who rides a promising, but self-absorbed cadet (Richard Gere) in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982), a performance that won him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Becoming the first African-American man to win an Oscar since Sidney Poitier, Gossett was prepared for his career to truly take off. But instead, the offers of bigger and better roles failed to materialize. Despite having an Emmy and Oscar to his name, Gossett fell into a void of self-pity and despair while medicating himself with drugs and alcohol. Slowly, however, he managed to lift himself out of his depression through rehabilitation. Meanwhile, in 1985, Gossett became deeply moved by an ABC news story about child poverty, which prompted him to find Sharron, one of the children featured in the segment, and offer monetary support. He later became Sharron's legal guardian after adopting the young boy.

Continuing to work through his battles with sobriety, Gossett earned an Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of Anwar Sadat in the syndicated miniseries "Sadat" (1983). Back on the big screen, he excelled as a razor-sharp con-man in "Finders Keepers" (1984), won kudos as the lizard-like alien in the sci-fi adventure "Enemy Mine" (1985), and established the action adventure franchise "Iron Eagle" (1985), playing Air Force Colonel Charles "Chappy" Sinclair, a role he reprised for two feature sequels and a made-for-television movie. Saving his best performances for the small screen, he turned in a finely tuned portrayal of a strong-willed septuagenarian in "A Gathering of Old Men" (CBS, 1987), which earned him another Emmy nomination. In "The Father Clements Story" (NBC, 1987), he played a real-life Chicago priest who bucks the archdiocese by adopting a street kid (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). Following reprisals in "Iron Eagle II" (1988) and "Roots: The Gift" (ABC, 1988), he starred as the titular anthropology professor who uses his knowledge of past cultures to solve crimes in the rotating series, "Gideon Oliver" (ABC, 1989). Gossett rounded out the decade with a co-starring turn in the first stab at adapting the Marvel comic, "The Punisher" (1989), which wound up being a low-budget Australian production that received only a direct-to-video release in the United States.

Still working steadily in the 1990s, Gossett turned up in a thankless supporting role opposite Dolph Lungren in the spy thriller, "Cover Up" (1990), though he redeemed himself with a Golden Globe-winning performance in "The Josephine Baker Story" (HBO, 1991), starring Lynn Whitfield as the black American expatriate entertaining Parisian audiences in the 1920s and 1930s. Following feature roles in "Toy Soldiers" (1991) and "Diggstown" (1992), in which he played a down-and-out boxer, Gossett reprised Chappy Sinclair for "Iron Eagle III" (1992), the last feature installment in the series. After the sci-fi adventure "Monolith" (1993) and playing a dignitary in "A Good Man in Africa" (1994), Gossett sought more creative control over his projects when he entered the producing game with the television movie, "Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice" (NBC, 1994). While continuing to turn up in bottom-shelf cop thrillers like "Flashfire" (1994), he starred in and produced more critically acclaimed dramatic fare like the apartheid-themed "Inside" (Showtime, 1996) and the inspirational true story, "Run For the Dream: The Gail Devers Story" (Showtime, 1996), starring Charlayne Woodard as the 1992 Olympic gold medalist.

By the time the new millennium was approaching, Gossett found himself appearing in a series of less-than-stellar projects that were far beneath his natural talents. After flogging an already dead franchise with "Iron Eagle IV: On the Attack" (HBO, 1996), arguably the worst of the three sequels, the actor portrayed a stock broker who investigates the mysterious death of an American journalist (John Rice) in Nicaragua in the mediocre thriller, "Managua" (1997). He next starred in and executive produced the thriller "The Inspectors" (Showtime, 1998), which spawned a sequel two years later with "Inspectors 2: A Shred of Evidence" (Showtime, 2000). Gossett was both star and producer of "The Color of Love: Jacey's Story" (CBS, 2000), a frank and sensitive depiction of racial intolerance. While Gossett remained an active presence in television, his feature output had dwindled in the new century, as the actor logged on a few small roles in films like "All In" (2006) and "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls" (2007). He mostly stayed with television movies like "For Love of Olivia" (CBS, 2001), "Jasper, Texas" (Showtime, 2003) and "Momentum" (Syfy, 2003), while appearing in series such as "The Dead Zone" (USA, 2001-08) and "Stargate SG-1" (Syfy, 1997-2007), the latter of which provided the actor a recurring role as Gerak, the former First Prime of Montu, during the show's ninth season. He delivered a supporting turn in the multi-award winning "Lackawanna Blues" (HBO, 2005), followed by a return to features with "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?" (2010).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Love Songs (1999) Director ("A Love Song For Champ")

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Boiling Pot (2015)
2.
 Fighting Man, A (2014)
3.
 Firstling, The (2014)
4.
5.
 Smitty (2012)
6.
 Grace Card, The (2011)
8.
9.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Brooklyn, New York
1953:
Broadway debut, "Take a Giant Step"
1954:
TV debut on "Philco Television Playhouse"
1955:
Returned to Broadway supporting Shirley Booth in "The Desk Set"
1959:
Received an offer to play for the New York Knicks but turned it down to take a stage role in "A Raisin in the Sun"
1961:
Film debut, "A Raisin in the Sun"
:
Was a nightclub singer at the Bitter End, Folk City, Gaslight Club, Black Pussy Cat and Cafe Id in New York during the 1960s
1964:
Acted on Broadway in musical version of "Golden Boy", starring Sammy Davis Jr
1968:
Played Willie Nurse on Broadway in Sidney Poitier's directorial debut, "Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights"
1969:
Wrote protest song, "Handsome Johnny", performed by Richie Havens at Woodstock music festival
1970:
TV series regular on "The Young Rebels" (ABC), set during the American Revolutionary War era; played blacksmith Isak Poole
1972:
Provided comic relief in George Cukor's "Travels With My Aunt", playing Maggie Smith's fortune-telling companion
1975:
Acted alongside James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson in "The River Niger", a feature film based on the 1972 Tony-winning play
1977:
Played Fiddler on the landmark ABC miniseries "Roots"; garnered Emmy Award
:
Starred as Dr MacArthur St Clair on the short-lived ABC medical series "The Lazarus Syndrome"
1981:
Portrayed legendary baseball pitcher Satchel Paige in ABC movie "Don't Look Back"
1982:
Won Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the tough drill sergeant in "An Officer and a Gentleman"
:
Co-starred as the alien Dehay (alias Walt Shepherd) on NBC sci-fi series, "The Powers of Matthew Star"
1983:
Earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Anwar Sadat in the synicated miniseries "Sadat"
1985:
Offered a feature sci-fi turn as the lizard-like Jeriba Shiban in "Enemy Mine"
1986:
Created the role of Charles 'Chappy' Sinclair in "Iron Eagle"; reprised role in two feature sequels and one TV-movie
1987:
Picked up another Emmy nomination for his performance in "A Gathering of Old Men" (CBS)
1988:
Reprised his Emmy-winning role as Fiddler in the ABC holiday TV-movie, "Roots: The Gift"
1989:
Starred as an anthropologist in the rotating ABC adventure series "Gideon Oliver"
1992:
Played 'Honey' Roy Palmer in "Diggstown", with Bruce Dern and James Woods; then-wife Cyndi played on-screen wife
1994:
First producing credit (as co-executive producer), the NBC movie "Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice"; also starred
1996:
Executive produced and starred in two Showtime movies, "Inside", directed by Arthur Penn, and "Run For the Dream: The Gail Devers Story", in which he played track coach Bob Kersee
1997:
Executive produced and starred in the TV-movies "To Dance With Olivia" (CBS) and "In His Father's Shoes" (Showtime); latter won a Daytime Emmy as Outstanding Children's Special
1997:
Co-produced and starred in feature film "Managua"
1998:
Narrated the AMC special "Small Steps, Big Strides: The Black Experience in Hollywood"
1998:
Was executive producer and star of the Showtime original thriller "The Inspectors"; reprised role and producer duties in the 2000 sequel "The Inspectors 2: A Shred of Evidence"
1998:
Featured in "Bram Stoker's Legend of the Mummy", aired on HBO
1999:
Contributed to the Showtime anthology drama "Love Songs", directing the "A Love Song For Champ" segment and acting in the other two segments of the dramatic trilogy
1999:
Played Vernon Jordan in the Showtime original film "Strange Justice"
2000:
Played the tough owner of a telemarketing firm with a cameo in the Canadian independent thriller "The Highwayman"
2000:
Executive produced and starred in the CBS TV-movie "The Color of Love: Jacey's Story"
2001:
Starred in and was executive producer of the sequel "For Love of Olivia"
2002:
Returned to Broadway playing Billy Flynn in the long-running revival of "Chicago"; left production after about a week reportedly due to ill health
2005:
Cast in the HBO original movie "Lackawanna Blues" based on Ruben Santiago-Hudson autobiographical one man show
2005:
Had a recurring role in "Stargate SG-1"
2007:
Starred in Tyler Perry's "Daddy's Little Girls"
2009:
Appeared in "Shannon's Rainbow"
2013:
Landed a guest spot on HBO's gangster drama "Boardwalk Empire"
2015:
Played Detective Haven in "Boiling Pot"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Abraham Lincoln High School: Brooklyn , New York - 1954
New York University: New York , New York - 1959

Notes

Some sources list 1937 as the year of Mr. Gossett's birth.

Among Gossett's numerous charities are The Muscular Dystrophy Association, The United Negro College Fund, The United Nations "World Summit For Children", the Children's Candlelight Vigil, PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), Boy's Hope, The End Hunger Network, National Rainbow Coalition, and Coalition to Stop the Violence. He is a recipient of the Wings of Hope Anti-Drug Award, the Martin Luther King Jr Alumni Award, an Honorary Big Brother Award, and Indiana State Senator, Carolina Mosby's Above and Beyond Award.

Gossett on his role as a black drill sergeant who is the mentor of Jason Gedrick's teenage hero in "Iron Eagle": "I like the part of Chappy because the character's a father figure for a black man -- a hero for a change. The movies have such an impact on children these days that a positive role like this takes racism and throws it away. It's my pleasant duty to jump into any role like that." --quoted in the "Iron Eagle" press kit, 1987.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Hattie Glascoe. Journalist. Marriage annulled.
wife:
Christina Mangosing. Actor. Divorced.
wife:
Cyndi James. Actor. Married on December 25, 1987 in Israel; Gossett filed for divorce on January 7, 1992.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Louis Gossett. Porter. Started as a porter for the local gas company, eventually becoming head of the billing department.
mother:
Helen Gossett. Maid, nurse. Son's early success enabled her to quit job as a domestic and return to finish her high school education.
son:
Satie Gossett. Born c. 1974; mother, Christina Mangosing; Gossett granted custody after court battle.
son:
Sharron Anthony Gossett. Born in 1977; Gossett became his legal guardian after seeing Sharron on ABC news segment on poverty among children in 1985.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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