An Officer and a Gentleman
“I can do more than anyone suspects. I pride myself on my versatility. It took 32 years of difficult parts, second leads, villains and juveniles. The Oscar changed the quality of the roles I was being offered.” Louis Gossett Jr.
Charismatic African-American actor Louis Gossett Jr. reached stardom at age 41 after playing Fiddler on the ABC miniseries “Roots” (1977), from which he won his Emmy Award and a 2007 Anniversary Award from the TV Land, “Roots,” 2007. A regular performer on Broadway during the 1950s to 1960s, he enjoyed additional TV success from the late 1970s to the 1980s with his Emmy-nominating roles in such projects as the miniseries “Backstairs at the White House” (1979) and “Sadat” (1983, also earned a Golden Globe nomination), the series “Palmerstown, U.S.A.” (1980-1981) and the made-for-TV film “A Gathering of Old Men” (1987). The versatile performer did not hit the big time until he portrayed the hard-bitten Sergeant in “An Office and a Gentleman.” Other remarkable film credits include “The Deep” (1977), “Finders Keepers” (1984), “Enemy Mine” (1985), “The Punisher” (1989) and the “Iron Eagle” series.
Gossett later netted a Golden Globe Award for his supporting turn in the HBO film “The Josephine Baker Story” (1991), an Emmy nomination and an Image Award for his recurring role in “Touched by An Angel” (1997) and a Golden Satellite and Image nomination for his work in the TV films “The Color of Love: Jacey's Story” (2000) and “Jasper, Texas” (2003), respectively. Also a producer and director, Gossett was handed a Daytime Emmy Award for producing Showtime's “In His Father's Shoes” (1997) and a Black Reel Award for his directorial debut in the segment “A Love Song For Champ” (1999).
Recently appearing in “Daddy's Little Girls” (2007) and “Cover” (2008), Gossett, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his film work, will play various roles in six upcoming films, including “The Perfect Game” (2008), “The Least Among You” (2008) and “Buttermilk Sky” (2009).
Gossett has been married three times and was once romantically inked to Honey Rufner who was sued by former wife Christina Mangosing in 1982 for giving their son Satie Gossett cocaine. The charges were later dropped. He and third wife Cyndi James Gossett (together from 1987 to 1992) have an adopted son named Sharron Anthony Gossett (born 1977). Gossett is the active supporter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Childhood and Family:
Louis Cameron Gossett, Jr. was born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Louis Gossett, Sr., was a porter at a local gas company before becoming the head of the billing department. His mother, Helen Gossett, was a homemaker. A basketball player in high school, Louis turned his attention to acting following a leg injury and made a promising stage debut in the school's production of “You Can't Take It with You” when he was 16.
After graduating from the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, in 1954, Louis was accepted into New York University on an athletic scholarship and was a basketball star throughout his college years. This success caught the attention of The New York Knicks, who offered him a professional contract shortly after he completed his studies. Louis briefly joined the team in 1958 but soon returned to acting.
Louis was married for the first time to Hattie Glascoe, but the marriage was later annulled. He next tied the knot with Christina Mangosing on August 21, 1973, and they had a son named Satie Gossett in 1974. The couple divorced in 1975. In 1982, Louis was involved in a conflict with former wife Christina when she charged Honey Rufner, Louis' then-girlfriend, of giving cocaine to their son. The illegal substance was found in the residence of Louis after a police search, but the boy was returned to his father as soon as the charges were dropped.
On December 25, 1987, Louis married third wife Cyndi James Gossett. Together, the couple adopted Sharron Anthony Gossett (born in 1977), a homeless boy whom Louis first saw in 1985 on “Good Morning America.” Lois and Cyndi divorced in 1992 after having been together for five years.
16-year-old Louis Gossett Jr. made his acting debut in a school production of “You Can't Take It with You,” an impressive performance that led him to being cast in his first Broadway play, “Take a Giant Step,” in 1953. Beating out hundreds of other aspiring actors to get the lead role, Gossett's hard work paid off when he was handed a Donaldson Award for Best Newcomer of the Year for his fine acting in the show. A first TV performance on “Philco Television Playhouse” the following year as well as a return to Broadway in 1955's “The Desk Set,” where he appeared with Shirley Booth, confirmed his blossoming acting career. Gossett also pursued college at New York University where he continued to play basketball for the university's team. Thanks to his athletic prowess, he was recruited to play for the New York Knicks upon graduation, but soon left the team to focus on acting. In 1959, the basketball star played the role of George Murchison in Lorraine Hansberry's Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun.” He recreated the role two years later in a film version of the same name directing by Daniel Petrie and starring Sidney Poitier.
The New York Native went on to collect stage credit during the 1960s and was seen in the musical version of “Golden Boy” (1964), which starred Sammy Davis Jr., “My Sweet Charlie” (1966), a Broadway directorial debut from Sidney Poitier, and “Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights” (1968). He also landed guest roles on such TV shows as “The Nurses” (1962), “Cowboy in Africa” (2 episodes, 1967-1968) and “The Invaders” (1968). Also an occasional nightclub singer, Gossett wrote the protest song “Handsome Johnny” in 1969 and it was performed by Richie Havens at the Woodstock music festival.
1970 saw the actor in the ABC series “The Young Rebels,” in which he portrayed 18th-century blacksmith Isak Poole. The series had a short life and was canceled in 1971 after 15 episodes. He returned to guest spots after the demise of “The Young Rebels” by appearing in episodes of “Bonanza,” “Longstreet,” “The Mod Squad,” “McCloud,” “Petrocelli,” “The Jeffersons” and “Police Story,” among others, and took roles on such TV films as 1972's “The Living End,” 1974's “The White Dawn” and 1975's “Delancey Street: The Crisis Within” before gaining a big victory in the landmark ABC miniseries “Roots” (1977). As Fiddler, he picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series.
Some of Gossett’s other notable credits include “The Landlord” (1970), by Hal Ashby and starring Beau Bridges, “Travels with My Aunt” (1972), and “The River Niger” (1976), adapted from a Tony Award-winning drama of the same name. He next teamed up with Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte for the Peter Yates Oscar-nominated horror/thriller “The Deep” (1977), in which he played a drug dealer named Henri Cloche. He closed out the decade with his Emmy nominated performances in “The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His Roots” (1978) and the NBC miniseries “Backstairs at the White House” (1979). He was also seen as Dr MacArthur St Clair on the brief-lived ABC medical drama “The Lazarus Syndrome” (also 1979).
Gossett starred as legendary baseball pitcher Satchel Paige in the ABC movie “Don't Look Back” (1981) and received a 1981 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his work in the short-lived drama “Palmerstown, U.S.A.” (1980-1981). However, the acclaimed performer did not experience another big breakthrough until he was cast in the supporting role of gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the Taylor Hackford-directed film “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982). Delivering a spectacular performance, Gossett took home the Academy, the Golden Globe and an Image award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture. His was then seen in the sequel “Jaws 3-D” (1983).
During 1982 to 1983, Gossett starred as Walt Shephard in the alien TV series “The Powers of Matthew Star.” He returned to film as the assassinated Egyptian leader Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat in the syndicated miniseries “Sadat” (1983) and was seen in Richard Lester's “Finders Keepers” (1984). He next gathered praise as the lizard-like Jeriba Shiban in the Wolfgang Petersen sci-fi adventure movie “Enemy Mine” (1985), opposite Dennis Quaid. In 1986, Gassott originated the role of Colonel Charles Sinclair in the action film “Iron Eagle,” a part he later reprised for two movie installments and a TV movie. The following year, he netted another Emmy nomination for his performance n the CBS television movie “A Gathering of Old Men” (1987). Gossett next reprised his coveted TV gig as Fiddler for the ABC holiday TV-film “Roots: The Gift” (1988), starred as anthropologist Gideon Oliver on the ABC adventure series “Gideon Oliver” (1989) and played Jake Berkowitz in the Boaz Yakin-penned action movie “The Punisher” (1989), alongside Dolph Lundgren.
Gossett took home a Golden Globe Award for his scene-stealing turn as Sidney Williams in the HBO biopic “The Josephine Baker Story” (1991), about the legendary African-American entertainer played by Lynn Whitfield. He then played Dean Parker in the action/drama film “Toy Soldiers” (1991), costarred with Bruce Dern and James Woods in the sport-themed “Diggstown” (1992) and supported Sean Connery and John Lithgow in the comedy film “A Good Man in Africa” (1994). It was also in 1994 that Gossett started his producing career with the NBC TV-movie “Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice,” in which he also starred in the title role. He went on to executive produce such TV films as “A Father for Charlie” (1995), Showtime's “Inside” and “Run for the Dream: The Gail Devers Story” (both 1996), CBS' “To Dance with Olivia” (1997) and “The Inspectors” (1998), all of which he also starred in. He also starred and co-produced the independent film “Managua” (1996).
Gossett was nominated for an Emmy award and won an Image award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his recurring role of Anderson Walker in two episodes of “Touched by An Angel” (1997). After making his directorial debut in the Showtime anthology drama “Love Songs” (1999) segment “A Love Song For Champ,” from which he netted a 2000 Black Reel for Network/Cable - Best Director, he appeared in the Showtime original film “Strange Justice” (1999) and starred with Jaimz Woolvett in the action/thriller film “Y2K” (1999).
2000 found Gossett executive producing and reprising his role in the TV-movie sequel “The Inspectors 2: A Shred of Evidence.” He did the same duties for the CBS film “The Color of Love: Jacey's Story” (2000, received a Golden Satellite nomination) and “For Love of Olivia” (2001), a sequel to 1979's “To Dance with Olivia.” Two years after making a cameo appearance as Phil Bishop in the Canadian indie-thriller “The Highwayman” (2000), Gossett returned to Broadway in the long-running revival of “Chicago” (2002), playing Billy Flynn. He left the production after two weeks when his health started to decline. The same year, he could also be seen playing Ezekiel 'Zeke' Grant on two episodes of “Resurrection Blvd.”
Gossett next acted in the films “Jasper, Texas” (2003, earned an Image nomination), “Momentum” (2003, starred as Raymond Addison), “Solar Strike” (2005, as President Ryan Gordon) and George C. Wolfe's “Lackawanna Blues” (HBO, 2005). He then played the recurring role of Gerak in the sci-fi series “Stargate SG-1” (2005-2006). On the film front, he starred as President Gerald Fitzhugh in the drama “Left Behind: World at War” (2005) and supported Dominique Swain and Michael Madsen in the comedy “All In” (2006).
In 2007, Gossett costarred with Gabrielle Union and Idris Elba in the drama/romance “Daddy's Little Girls,” written and directed by Tyler Perry. He provided the voice of Lucius Fox in three episodes of the animated series “The Batman” and appeared as Detective Hicks in the Bill Duke film “Cover” (2008).
Recently, Gossett completed filming the comedy “The B.A.M.N. Squad,” the sport-themed “The Perfect Game” and the animated “Delgo” (all 2008). He also has a supporting role in the “The Least Among You” (2008), a biopic by Mark Young, and a costarring role as Judge Stanton in the drama/family “Buttermilk Sky” (2009). He is scheduled to work with Paul Sorvino in the upcoming thriller “The Real Catch” (2008), helmed and co-written by Benjamin Louis, and has signed on as narrator and executive producer of “The Untold Truth” (2008), a documentary about the African-American Baseball Leagues.
TV Land: Anniversary Award, “Roots,” 2007
Temecula Valley International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004
Black Reel: Network/Cable - Best Director, “Love Songs,” 2000
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Children's Special, “In His Father's Shoes,” 1998
Image: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, “Touched by an Angel,” 1998
Taos Talking Picture Festival: Maverick Award, 1997
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, “The Josephine Baker Story,” 1992
ShoWest Convention: Special Award, Best Supporting Actor, 1983
Oscar: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” 1983
Golden Globe: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” 1983
Image: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” 1982
Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series, “Roots” (For part II), 1977