First Black supporting actor Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. dies at 87. (Part-1)

Los Angeles — Louis Gossett Jr., the first Black supporting actor Oscar and Emmy winner for the TV miniseries “Roots,” died. He was 87. First cousin Neal L. Gossett told The Associated Press that the actor died in Santa Monica. The family reported Gossett's death Friday morning. The reason of death was unknown.

Gossett's cousin recalls a man who marched with Nelson Mandela and was a superb joke teller, fighting prejudice with dignity and humor. Never mind the prizes, glitz, glamor, Rolls-Royces, and Malibu mansions. "He stood for the humanity of the people," his cousin remarked.

Louis Gossett always saw his early career as a reverse Cinderella narrative, with success finding him early and propelling him toward his Academy Award for “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Gossett made his TV debut as Fiddler in the 1977 miniseries “Roots,” which showed slavery's miseries. The large cast includes Ben Vereen, LeVar Burton, and John Amos.

Gossett was 1983's third Black supporting actor Oscar nominated. In “An Officer and a Gentleman” with Richard Gere and Debra Winger, he played the fearsome Marine drill instructor and won. The same role earned him a Golden Globe.

"More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a Black actor," he said in his 2010 biography, “An Actor and a Gentleman.” While injured on the basketball team, he made his acting debut in his Brooklyn high school's production of “You Can't Take It with You”.

His English teacher advised him to audition for “Take a Giant Step” in Manhattan. He made his Broadway debut at 16 in 1953. “I knew too little to be nervous,” Gossett writes. “I should have been terrified as I walked onto that stage, but I wasn't.”

NBA and drama scholarship recipient Gossett attended NYU. He appeared on David Susskind, Ed Sullivan, Red Buttons, Merv Griffin, Jack Paar, and Steve Allen shows as an actor and singer. Gossett befriended James Dean and studied acting alongside Marilyn Monroe, Martin Landau, and Steve McQueen at Frank Silvera's Actors Studio spinoff.

Gossett, Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Diana Sands were lauded for their roles in “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway in 1959. He became a Broadway sensation in 1964, replacing Billy Daniels in “Golden Boy” opposite Sammy Davis Jr.

Gossett first visited Hollywood in 1961 to film “A Raisin in the Sun.” He regretted sleeping in a cockroach-infested motel, one of the few Black-friendly hotels. NBC's first made-for-TV film, "Companions in Nightmare," starring Melvyn Douglas, Anne Baxter, and Patrick O'Neal, brought him back to Hollywood in 1968.

Gossett stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel and hired a convertible from Universal Studios. A Los Angeles County sheriff's officer stopped him on his way back to the hotel after picking up the car and instructed him to turn down the radio and raise the roof. He was stopped by eight sheriff's officers within minutes, who made him lean against the car and open the trunk while calling the auto rental business before releasing him.

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