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Iconic ‘Shaft’ Actor Richard Roundtree Passes Away at 81: A Tribute to His Pioneering Career

Richard Roundtree
Richard Roundtree (Credits: Getty Images)

Richard Roundtree, the iconic stage and screen actor renowned for his unforgettable portrayal of a hard-nosed private investigator in the 1971 classic “Shaft,” has passed away at the age of 81, as reported by numerous sources. This sorrowful news was officially confirmed by Roundtree’s manager, Patrick McMinn, who disclosed that the actor succumbed to a brief but arduous battle with pancreatic cancer on a Tuesday afternoon.

Roundtree’s pivotal role in “Shaft” marked a turning point in the landscape of African-American leading men in the film industry. Transitioning from the realm of theater, he became one of the few actors to achieve top billing with his maiden screen credit. This Blaxploitation masterpiece catapulted him into the cultural spotlight, spawning a franchise that included sequels, a television series, and a 2019 reboot starring Samuel L. Jackson.

Iconic 'Shaft' Actor Richard Roundtree Passes Away at 81

Iconic ‘Shaft’ Actor Richard Roundtree Passes Away at 81 (Credits: BBC)

Over the course of his remarkable career spanning half a century, Roundtree accumulated a remarkable tally of more than 150 screen credits. His remarkable television appearances included roles in acclaimed productions like “Roots,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” In the world of cinema, he shared the screen with notable titles such as “Se7en,” “Speed Racer,” and “Brick.”

Actress Gabrielle Union paid her respects to Roundtree on X, formerly known as Twitter, sharing a touching tribute and reposting images that encapsulated their shared moments during their time on the TV series “Being Mary Jane.”

Samuel L. Jackson, Roundtree’s co-star in the “Shaft” reboot, took to Instagram to honor the late actor. In a poignant tribute posted on a Tuesday evening, Jackson fondly referred to Roundtree as “The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!!” He conveyed the profound void left by Roundtree’s passing, stating, “His departure has left a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure, in the hearts of many of you as well.” He concluded with an evocative vision of Roundtree walking down the streets of Heaven, with angels whispering as his coat billowed in the wind, eternally conducting his song.

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