Louis Gossett Jr., ‘An Officer And A Gentleman’ And ‘Roots’ Actor, Dies At 87


Louis Gossett Jr., renowned for his roles as a formidable yet tender-hearted character, passed away on Friday at the age of 87. His acclaimed performances earned him an Oscar for his role as a hardened sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman and an Emmy for portraying a benevolent slave in the groundbreaking miniseries “Roots.”

The Hollywood Reporter received a statement from his family stating, “It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning. We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”


Remembering the legacy of Louis Gossett Jr.

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, l-r: Louis Gossett, Jr., Shannon Lynn, 1982. ©Paramount Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Neal L. Gossett, Louis Gossett Jr.’s first cousin, disclosed to the Associated Press that the celebrated actor passed away in Santa Monica. The cause of death was not specified, though Gossett had made his battle with prostate cancer public in 2010. Gossett, known for his imposing presence, athletic build, and distinctive bald head, excelled in a variety of stern roles. His most iconic role was in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, directed by Taylor Hackford. Portraying Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley, he famously challenged Richard Gere’s character with tough love at an officer candidate school, culminating in a memorable martial arts confrontation.


RELATED: Richard Gere Hit Co-Star During Filming Of ‘An Officer And A Gentleman’

ROOTS, Louis Gossett Jr., 1977. ©Warner Bros Television/Courtesy Everett Collection

Throughout his illustrious career spanning over six decades, Louis Gossett Jr. showcased his versatility by taking on a variety of groundbreaking roles that transcended racial stereotypes. He portrayed a hospital chief of staff in the 1979 ABC series The Lazarus Syndrome and embodied the character of Gideon Oliver, an anthropology professor, in a series of ABC Mystery Movies in 1989.

Gossett also took on roles such as the protector of a 16-year-old extraterrestrial (played by Peter Barton) in NBC’s The Powers of Matthew Star; Gerak, the inaugural leader of the Free Jaffa Nation, in the Syfy series Stargate SG-1; the distant father of Halle Berry’s character in CBS’ Extant; and the former vigilante Will Reeves in HBO’s Watchmen. His performance in Watchmen earned him his eighth Emmy nomination, marking yet another milestone in his enduring and diverse career.

THE COLOR PURPLE, Louis Gossett Jr., 2023. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

The actor’s film credits go on to include Travels With My Aunt (1972), The Laughing Policeman (1973), The River Niger (1976), The Choirboys (1977), Enemy Mine (1985), The Principal (1987), Blue Chips (1994), Jasper, Texas (2003), Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), King of the Dancehall (2016), Foster Boy (2018), The Cuban (2019) and The Color Purple (2023).

Rest in peace.

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