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HomeNewsShaft Star Richard Roundtree Dead at 81

Shaft Star Richard Roundtree Dead at 81

Best known for playing the iconic John Shaft in a number of movies and television shows, Richard Roundtree has died at the age of 81.

A beloved actor who built quite a fanbase for himself with 1971’s Shaft – his first movie as an actor – and its sequels, Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa, Roundtree continued playing the character for a CBS television series that ran in 1973-4. Roundtree then appeared in the Emmy-winning television miniseries, Roots, in 1977, and continued to work regularly over the next 45 years. Other key roles included one in Rian Johnson‘s debut, Brick, playing a judge in Robert Altman‘s The Player, and a recent role in Moving On with Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin. Roundtree also would appear on many television shows, often just for one or two episodes until 2009’s Diary of a Single Mom, and 2013’s Being Mary Jane, on which he was a regular. Most recently, he starred on Netflix‘s Family Reunion and Ava DuVernay‘s Cherish the Day for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

Roundtree reprised the role of John Shaft for the 2000 reboot starring Samuel L. Jackson, and then once again for 2019’s Shaft, once again starring Jackson and bringing on board Jessie T. Usher for the third generation.

Jackson posted a photo of the two on his Instagram with the comment, “Richard Roundtree, The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!! SHAFT, as we know it is & will always be His Creation!! His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too. Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle of Main Street in Heaven & Issac’s Conducting your song.”

Courtesy Samuel L. Jackson’s Instagram
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.


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