5 Roles That Exemplify the Excellence of Louis Gossett Jr.

The award-winning trailblazer starred in films that showcased his dynamic range while charging Hollywood to produce films punctuated with diversity on screen and behind the camera.

The life and legacy of Louis Gossett Jr. can be summed up in one word: Excellent. From stirring roles in theater to glass-shattering roles on screen, this legendary actor surpassed limits, etching his name in history books as a pioneer whose shoulders newcomers stand on.

Along his journey in Hollywood, Gossett won multiple awards including an Oscar, an Emmy, and two Golden Globes.

Related: Star of ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ and ‘Roots’ Louis Gossett Jr., Dies at 87

With his sudden passing at 87, we mourn his death, while commemorating his contributions to the entertainment industry.

Here are five films he starred in that elevated his career.

  • "Kingdom Business"

    Along with various film roles in his career, Gossett also made an impact in the TV industry. In 2022 and 2023, he starred in the first and second seasons of the BET+ Original Series, "Kingdom Business" as Jeremiah.

  • "Roots"

    Then in 1977, he starred as Fiddler in "Roots."

    This role earned him an Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series.

    Still, that role was one he straddled the fence on at first.

    "I said, 'Well, how come they saved the 'Uncle Tom' [role], for me?' I hide the insult that hit me in the pit of my stomach," Gossett told ScreenRant in 2022 of being offered the role. "Then I said, 'Well, I'm not going to turn this down, because I want to be part of this thing.... It's a challenge to bring that resurrection character as a survivor in America, who does not remember being a slave, for him to survive. Without Fiddler, Kunta Kinte does not exist."

  • "An Officer and a Gentleman"

    Five years later, he portrayed Sgt. Emil Foley in "An Officer and a Gentleman."

    In 1983, he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his character in the film, making him the first Black actor to win in that category.

    Still, when that history-making moment occurred, he didn't believe it.

    In 2021, he told CBS Morning his agent "hit me on my chest and said, 'They mentioned your name.'"

    "And I looked at him because I thought I was asleep. And I looked around and there was applause," he said. "Not supposed to be possible. So I said thank you. That's a piece of history."

    He also won a Golden Globe for his portrayal in this film in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture.

  • "The Josephine Baker Story"

    In 1991, he starred opposite Lynn Whitfield in "The Josephine Baker Story," biopic.

    A year later, he won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for his role.

  • "The Color Purple"

    One of the last films Gossett starred in was the 2023 reimagined story of "The Color Purple" as Ol Mister, Colman Domingo's father in the film.

    "We lost a true great. A true legend. What an honor to have been able to give him his flowers on his last day of his final film “The Color Purple” where he played my father," the "Rustin" star said in part of a tribute on Instagram. "Fantasia sang it best…He ran his race for us. We are forever indebted. May we stand firmly on his shoulders."

    Last year while speaking to PEOPLE he said, he was “still here" with no plans to retire. “God must have something left for me to do."

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