Richard Roundtree, the trailblazing African American actor who became America’s inaugural Black action hero, has passed away

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admin October 26, 2023
Updated 2023/10/26 at 2:37 AM

American actor Richard Roundtree, who was celebrated as the first Black action hero for his role in the iconic 1971 film “Shaft,” passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81, according to reports from US media.

Renowned Hollywood publication Deadline revealed that the actor, who paved the way for other Black artists in the industry, passed away surrounded by his family after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.

“Shaft,” in which Roundtree portrayed the titular character, John Shaft, a private detective, generated a series of sequels and a spinoff television show.

Even after five decades, Roundtree continued to act, appearing in the television romance drama “Cherish the Day” and the comedy film “Moving On” just last year.

Roundtree’s manager, Patrick McMinn, stated in a press release to Variety, “Richard’s work and career marked a significant turning point for African American leading men in the film industry. The impact he made on the industry cannot be underestimated.”

Roundtree’s major debut, “Shaft,” was hailed as a groundbreaking classic in the Blaxploitation genre that dominated the film industry in the 1970s. Supporters argue that the film addressed race relations, while critics criticize it for perpetuating stereotypes. However, the genre played a crucial role in challenging Hollywood to cast Black Americans as lead characters.

Roundtree acknowledged the complex nature of his role in the film, stating that it had both positive and negative implications. Nevertheless, numerous people from various parts of the world have approached him to express the significance of the film to them during that time.

On the downside, Roundtree was subsequently typecast for a significant period of time. However, he made a deliberate effort to showcase his versatility as an actor and successfully established a different side of his acting abilities.

According to his agency, Roundtree’s career was revolutionary and had a transformative impact on the entertainment industry worldwide.

“The impact of his enduring legacy will transcend across generations to come. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones as they navigate through this challenging period.”

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