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Simply put, the culture lost a giant in Richard Roundtree. The legendary movie and television star’s contributions to Black entertainment will never be forgotten.

As we reflect on his life and legacy, we remember him as a trailblazer who truly broke barriers for many generations of Black actors on screen.


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While his credits spanned over 50 years, the star was most notably revered as the ‘first Black action hero’ following his debut performance in ‘Shaft.’

The 1971 film was a pillar of the Blaxploitation era, and Roundtree’s portrayal earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

The suave detective returned for highly anticipated sequels “Shaft’s Big Score” in 1972 and “Shaft in Africa” in 1973. Then reprised his role in 2000 for a ‘Shaft’ revival, starring Samuel L. Jackson.

In a social media post after news of Roundtree’s passing, Jackson called him the “prototype” and the “best to ever do it.”

“SHAFT, as we know it is & will always be his Creation,” Jackson wrote. “His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too.”

Roundtree officially closed the book on ‘Shaft’ in the 2019 film starring Jessie T. Usher.

In a 2021 sit down interview with Roland Martin for his “Rollin With Roland” show on the Black Star Network, the film icon recalled the day ‘Shaft’ director Gordon Parks informed him that he got the role.

Watch the 2:30 clip below.

You can catch the full interview on the Black Star Network app or here.

Richard Roundtree reportedly had a brief battle with pancreatic cancer prior to his passing. He was 81.

As we continue to remember this beloved trailblazer, follow along as we also dig into TV One archives and pay tribute to him.

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Remembering Richard Roundtree | The Trailblazing Movie Star’s Story of Learning He Landed ‘Shaft’  was originally published on