Smooth ‘Shaft’ Star, Richard Roundtree, Passes Away at the Age of 81.

Richard Roundtree, the edgy actor who played private eye John Shaft, “the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all around,” and who helped open the door to a generation of Black filmmakers and actors, passed away on Tuesday. He was 81.

richard roundtree

Although Roundtree’s career lasted five decades, his role as Detective John Shaft in the 1971 action film cemented his status as the first Black action hero. He later starred in the prequels “Shaft’s Big Score!,” “Shaft in Africa,” and the brief “Shaft” TV series aired in 1973.

In both the 2019 Tim Story-directed follow-up to the 2000 John Singleton film “Shaft,” which starred Samuel L. Jackson, Roundtree would reprise the part.

Along with “Se7en,” “George of the Jungle,” “Body of Influence,” “Amityville: A New Generation,”and
“What Men Want,” Roundtree also starred in “Inchon” (1981), “City Heat,” and “City Heat II,” all
starring Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. His final appearance in a major motion picture was in the
comedy “Moving On” in 2022.

His television acting achievements include the renowned 1977 miniseries “Roots,” in which he played
slave Sam Bennett. The programmes “Generations,” “413 Hope St.,” “Alias,” “Diary of a Single Mom,”
“Buddies,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Soul Food,” “Being Mary Jane,” and “Family Reunion” were among
the other credits. In addition, season 2 of Ava DuVernay’s OWN series “Cherish the Day” will debut
in 2022.

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Shaft, which is based on a 1970 novel by Ernest Tidyman, was initially intended to have a white
actor in the lead role. After discovering Roundtree at a cattle call, Parks insisted on casting
the former model.

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