The star of one of the most memorable shows of the 1970s has passed away.
Richard Roundtree, best known for his role in “Shaft,” has died at the age of 81.
Roundtree reportedly lost a battle with pancreatic cancer, surrounded by family and loved ones at the time of his death.
Shaft is Gone
It is not often that you pop on the scene and land a leading role like this, but that is exactly what happened when Roundtree was cast in the lead role as John Shaft in “Shaft.”
He played a hip and charismatic private detective who was known just as much for his skillset as he was for the way he dressed.
This was a big risk at the time, but TV shows were starting to branch out into more “risky” content, and race was a big part of that.
The 1970s saw black-themed shows for the first time on a regular basis, with “Sanford and Son” airing in 1972 and “The Jeffersons” first airing in 1975.
For the most part, up until the 1970s, black actors were cast in roles that were considered stereotypical, but the 1970s changed that considerably, opening the door for other shows like “The Cosby Show” and “Frank’s Place.”
“Shaft” took far more risks than those shows, but being a movie, they had a bit more leeway than what could be done on TV.
That did not stop Roundtree, however, as he continued to do TV and the big screen alike, as well as reviving the role of Shaft in a sequel in 1973 called “Shaft in America,” which led to the TV show, which first aired in 1973.
When “Shaft” was canceled in 1974, Roundtree picked up where he left off, logging a total of 159 credits on his resume, which included a role in the 2019 version of “Shaft,” playing John Shaft, Sr. Samuel Jackson played the lead as cyber security expert, stepping up the skillset from the original movie while keeping the nuance of the character in play.
Patrick McMann, Roundtree’s manager, stated, “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.”
There is no argument here… he was a trailblazer in the industry for black actors who still refer to him today as their inspiration and hero.
Rest in peace, sir.