Richard Roundtree, the groundbreaking film star best known for his starring role in the “Shaft” franchise, has died at the age of 81.
The actor passed away on Oct. 24 with his family by his bedside after a “brief battle with pancreatic cancer,” a rep for the star confirmed to NBC News.
“Artists & Representatives Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree,” his agency shared in a statement. “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’s manager also honored the late actor, telling NBC News in a statement, “Richard’s work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film. The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated.”
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Roundtree was an icon of Blaxploitation cinema and became a household name with his titular role as detective John Shaft in the hit 1971 movie “Shaft.”
He went on to star in multiple sequels and even reprised his role in the 2000 and 2019 “Shaft” reboots starring Samuel L. Jackson as his character’s nephew.
Roundtree had other memorable film roles in “City Heat,” “Seven,” “George of the Jungle,” and “What Men Want.” He was also prolific in television, acting in the famed miniseries “Roots” and appearing on “Desperate Housewives,” “The Closer,” “Heroes,” “Diary of a Single Mom,” and “Being Mary Jane,” among other series.
Gabrielle Union, who worked with Roundtree on “Being Mary Jane,” wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter), “Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream. 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. He was simply the best & we all loved him.”
Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream. 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. He was simply… pic.twitter.com/1N8fHVDsA6
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 25, 2023