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‘Shaft’ Star Richard Roundtree Dies At Age 81

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Richard Roundtree, who gained notoriety for portraying the lead role in the ground-breaking “Shaft” series, departed this life on Tuesday, October 24 at the age of 81.

After a brief fight with pancreatic cancer, Roundtree passed away, according to confirmation from his longtime manager Patrick McMinn to ABC News.

He mentioned that Roundtree’s relatives were by his side.

Throughout the course of his five-decade career, Roundtree became known as the first Black action hero thanks to his performance as Detective John Shaft in the 1971 action thriller. He then starred in the 1973 “Shaft” TV series, “Shaft’s Big Score!,” and “Shaft in Africa” sequels.

In the 2019 Tim Story-directed follow-up to the 2000 John Singleton film “Shaft,” starring Samuel L. Jackson, Roundtree would play the same role.

In addition to “Se7en,” “George of the Jungle,” “Body of Influence,” “Amityville: A New Generation,” and “What Men Want,” Roundtree’s numerous other film credits include the 1984 feature “City Heat,” starring Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and the 1981 film “Inchon,” costarring Laurence Olivier and Ben Gazzara. In 2022, he had his final on-screen appearance in the comedy “Moving On”.

Sam Bennett, a slave, was one of his television credits from the critically acclaimed 1977 miniseries “Roots.” Season 2 of Ava DuVernay’s OWN series “Cherish the Day” in 2022 was one among the additional credits, along with the television shows “Generations,” “413 Hope St.,” “Alias,” “Diary of a Single Mom,” “Buddies,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Soul Food,” “Being Mary Jane,” and “Family Reunion.”

In a statement honoring Roundtree’s acting history, his talent agency, Artists & Representatives Agency, said, “His groundbreaking career transformed 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.”

“Being Mary Jane” co-star Gabrielle Union, who worked with Richard Roundtree, responded to his passing on X, formerly Twitter, saying, “My experience with Richard Roundtree was amazing….” People would practically race over to see him because he was always the coolest dude in the room with the BEST vibes. We all adored him and he was the best.

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