After a brief fight with pancreatic illness, Richard Roundtree—who made history with his iconic role in the Shaft movie franchise—passed away this afternoon, October 24, surrounded by his loved ones. He was eighty-one years old.

Born in 1942 in New Rochelle, New York, Roundtree starred in early 1970s blaxploitation films, such as Shaft.

His role as investigator John Shaft in the 1971 action thriller and its follow-ups, Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973), as well as the brief Shaft TV series (1973–1974), made him incredibly popular.

Hailed as the first Black action hero, Roundtree received praise for his role in the first film and a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year.
Many years later, Roundtree returned to the role in the 2019 Tim Story-directed sequel and the 2000 John Singleton picture starring Samuel L. Jackson.

In addition, Roundtree’s cinematic credits include appearances in Se7en and George of the Jungle, the 1984 City Heat with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and the 1981 Inchon, in which he starred opposite Laurence Olivier and Ben Gazzara. His most recent appearance was in the Paul Weitz comedy Moving On last year.

Roundtree’s most well-known television roles were as slave Sam Bennett in the classic 1977 series Roots and as Dr. Daniel Reubens on Generations (1989–1991).
Deadline received confirmation of Roundtree’s passing from both his longtime manager, Patrick McMinn, and his agency, Artists & Representatives.

The firm released a statement saying, “Artists & Representatives firm mourns the passing of our friend and client Richard Roundtree. His groundbreaking career revolutionized the global entertainment landscape, and his lasting influence will be felt for many years to come. At this trying moment, our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.

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