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Louis Gossett Jr, 1st Black man to score best Supporting Actor Academy win, passes away at 87 | Hollywood

Louis Gossett Jr, the first Black man to secure an Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor title, died at 87. His first cousin, Neal L Gossett, confirmed the news of his unfortunate passing on March 29.

FILE – Louis Gossett Jr. poses for a portrait in New York to promote the release of “Roots: The Complete Original Series” on Bu-ray on May 11, 2016. Gossett Jr., the first Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar and an Emmy winner for his role in the seminal TV miniseries “Roots,” has died. He was 87. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File)(Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)

The miniseries Roots actor died at a rehabilitation centre in Santa Monica, California. While the immediate cause of his demise is unknown, Gossett struggled with prostate cancer and a respiratory illness in recent years.

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About Louis Gossett Jr’s Hollywood career

Spanning nearly seven decades, his contributions to the acting industry include his Oscar-winning role as a Marine drill instructor in An Officer and Gentleman. The Academy Awards honoured him with the Best Supporting Actor accolade at the 55th edition of the ceremony in 1983. As the first African-American to win this Oscar, he defeated fellow nominees Charles Durning, John Lithgow, James Mason and Robert Preston. Susan Sarandon and Christopher Reeve presented the golden trophy to the veteran.

The charismatic Brooklyn-born actor also landed an Emmy win in 1977 for his role in the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley’s novel. In addition to being the first Black Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner, he was also the first Black actor to score an overall Academy win since Sidney Poitier’s 1953 honour.

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Having attended New York University, Gossett was one of the most famous actors of his time. The former college Basketball player’s talents even travelled to Broadway and other prominent stages. He appeared in dramas such as Jean Genet’s anti-colonialism title The Blacks, Lorrain Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Conor Cruise O’Brien’s Murderous Angels.

Despite his well-seated magnetism as an actor, White filmmakers subjected him to pigeonholed characterisations, remarking that he wasn’t behaving “Black enough” on camera. They pushed him to “use those Black phrases.”

Louis Gossett Jr’s health struggles

In 1989, he told the New York Times about how his expectations took a major hit when offers didn’t come his way. When the pressures built up, depression consumed him, as he became addicted to cocaine and alcohol. Another slew of health issues included his 2010 prostate cancer diagnosis. In December 2020, he was also hospitalised with COVID-19.

Gossett even grappled with a respiratory illness, which was birthed due to toxic mold in his old Malibu home.

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