Richard Roundtree
Birth Date:
July 9, 1942
Birth Place:
New Rochelle, New York, USA
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Actor Richard Roundtree was shot to prominence thanks to his portrayal of private detective John Shaft in the film “Shaft” (1971), for which he picked up a Golden Globe nomination. He also starred in the sequels “Shaft's Big Score” (1972) and “Shaft in Africa” (1973), as well as in the TV series (CBS, 1973-1974). Roundtree's performance in “Shaft” (1971) is ranked No. 62 on the Premiere Magazine list of “100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.” An icon of the 1970s, Roundtree also appeared in the films “Earthquake” (1974) and “Man Friday” (1975) and the hit TV miniseries “Roots” (1977). His popularity, however, gradually declined in the late 1970s. Roundtree later received a Soap Opera Digest nomination for his supporting role in “Generations” (1989-1990) and an Image nomination for his starring role in the FOX drama “413 Hope St” (1997-1998). His TV credits also include reoccurring roles in “Soul Food” (2000-2001), “Resurrection Blvd,” (2001), “Alias” (2003-2004), “Desperate Housewives” (2004-2005), “Heroes” (2006-2007), “Lincoln Heights” (2007-2009) and “Diary of a Single Mom” (2009-2010). More recent film credits include “Se7en” (1995), “George of the Jungle” (1997), “Boat Trip” (2002), “Brick” (2005), “All the Days Before Tomorrow” (2007), “Speed Racer” (2008) and “The Confidant” (2010).

In addition to acting, Roundtree enjoys photography and golf. He was diagnosed with an uncommon form of breast cancer in 1993 and had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. He survived and has since become a supporter of education for the disease. Roundtree is a close friend of Bill Cosby.


Childhood and Family:

The son of John and Kathryn Roundtree, Richard Roundtree was born on July 9, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York. He attended New Rochelle High School and was part of the school's football team in 1960. After graduating in 1961, he went to Southern Illinois University Carbondale on a football scholarship. He later abandoned athletics to become an actor.

Richard married Karen Roundtree in 1980, but they later divorced. They are the parents of Tayler-Marie (born in 1988), Morgan (born in 1990) and John James (born on November 3, 1998).



After giving up football, Richard Roundtree tried his hand at modeling with Ebony Fashion Fair before eventually joining the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967. He appeared in several productions with the company, including “The Great White Hope.”

In 1970, Roundtree broke into the wide screen with a small part in “What Do You Say to a Naked Lady,” a hidden camera style film directed and written by “Candid Camera” creator Allen Funt. His big breakthrough arrived when he was hired to star in the film “Shaft” (1971). An adaptation of the 1971 novel of the same name by Ernest Tidyman, who also co-wrote the screenplay with John D. F. Black, the film received good reviews from critics and has been considered by many as one of the best films of 1971. It won an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song and was also nominated for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, among other honors. Roundtree was handed a 1972 Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer - Male for his work on the film. “Shaft” was a commercial success at the box office. Produced on a budget of $500,000, it made $13 million.

Roundtree reprised the role of John Shaft for the 1972 sequel “Shaft's Big Score” (1972), which was again directed by Park. He then appeared in “Shaft in Africa” (1973), which was helmed by John Guillermin. Unlike the first two films, “Shaft in Africa” flopped at the box office. The TV series version of “Shaft” debuted on CBS on October 9, 1973, with Roundtree again starring as the private detective. However, the show was canceled after seven episodes. Roundtree later received a Lifetime Achievement award at the 1994 MTV Movie Awards for his work on the film series.

In addition to working in the “Shaft” productions, Roundtree starred as a CIA officer named Richard Shannon in the film version of Stephen Coulter's “Embassy” (1972). He then starred with Roy Thinnes and Nigel Davenport in the movie “Charley One-Eye” (1973), which was directed by Don Chaffey, and appeared in the pilot of “Firehouse.” In 1974, Roundtree experienced a huge box office success with Mark Robson's disaster movie “Earthquake,” where he starred with Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy, Lorne Greene, Geneviève Bujold, Marjoe Gortner, Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan and Victoria Principal. The film grossed nearly $80 million against a budget of $7 million and won Oscars for Best Sound and Special Achievement Award. The actor then starred as Friday, opposite Peter O'Toole as Robinson Crusoe, in the Cannes Film Festival premiered “Man Friday” (1975, directed by Jack Gold), costarred with Robert Shaw, Barbara Hershey and Shelley Winters in “Diamonds” (1975, directed by Menahem Golan), supported Jack Palance and Rod Steiger in Allan A. Buckhantz's “Portrait of a Hitman” (1977) and played Sam Bennett in the blockbuster TV miniseries “Roots” (1977). He closed out the decade with roles in “Escape to Athena” (1979), “Game for Vultures” (1979, starred with Richard Harris) and Brian Trenchard-Smith's “Day of the Assassin” (1979, opposite Chuck Connors, Susana Dosamantes and Glenn Ford).

Beginning in 1980, Roundtree appeared in Alan Smithee's “Gypsy Angels” (1980), Terence Young's big budget flop “Inchon” (1981), the Chuck Norris vehicle “An Eye for an Eye” (1981), Larry Cohen's horror “Q” (1982), Fred Williamson's “One Down, Two to Go” (1982), Lawrence D. Foldes' “Young Warriors” (1983), “The Big Score” (1983), and Frank Harris' “Killpoint” (1984). He also acted in Richard Benjamin's “City Heat” (1984, starred Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds), “Opposing Force” (1986), the teen comedy “Jocks” (1986, played tennis coach Chip Williams ), “La vendetta” (1988), William Lustig's horror “Maniac Cop” (1988), “Angel III: The Final Chapter” (1988), “Party Line” (1988), “Miami Cops” (1989), “Night Visitor” (1989), “The Banker” (1989) and Michael Fischa's “Crack House” (1989). Roundtree also worked in a number of television programs. He appeared with Claude Akins, Dan Albright and Harvey Andrews in the CBS film “The Baron and the Kid” (1984), portrayed Serpenius in the miniseries “A.D” (1985), costarred with Robert Conrad and Sam Waterston in the NBC film “The Fifth Missile” (1986) and played the role of Isaiah in the short lived CBS series “Outlaws” (1986-1987). In addition, he had recurring roles in “The Love Boat” (1980, as Dace Williams), “A Different World” (1989, as Clinton Reese), “Amen” (1989) and “Beauty and the Beast” (1989) and one episode roles in such series as “ChiPs,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Masquerade,” “Cadets” and “Murder, She Wrote.” In 1989, he began his role of Dr. Daniel Reubens in the short lived NBC daytime drama “Generations.” The role brought him a 1991 Soap Opera Digest nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor: Daytime.

Roundtree worked steadily during the 1990s. He guest starred in such series as “21 Jump Street,” “MacGyver,” “Beverly Hills, 90210, “L.A. Law,” “Touched by an Angel” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” to list just a few series. He also acted in the television movies “Black as the Heart” (1991), “Christmas in Connecticut” (1992), “Moscacieca” (1993), “Bonanza: The Return” (1993), “Shadows of Desire” (1994), “Bonanza: Under Attack” (1995), “Any Place But Home” (1997) and “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years” (1999). In addition, Roundtree played Russell Emerson in four episodes of the Charles S. Dutton starring sitcom “Roc” (1991-1994), Henry Carlisle in the ABC short lived series “Buddies” (1996), and Phil Thomas in the Fox series “413 Hope St.” (1997-1998).

Meanwhile on the big screen, Roundtree landed roles in “Bad Jim” (1990), “ A Time to Die” (1991), “Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight” (1992), “Deadly Rivals” (1993), “Sins of the Night” (1993), “Mind Twister” (1994), “Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored” (1995), “Ballistic” (1995), “Original Gangstas” (1996) and “Steel” (1997), a superhero movie starring Shaquille O'Neal. He was then cast as Martin Talbot in the David Fincher thriller “Se7en” (1995), which starred Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey and Kevin Spacey. Produced with a budget of $30 million, it grossed over $100 million domestically and $227 million overseas. The film also received good reviews. He scored another box office hit with “George of the Jungle” (1997), a live action movie adapted from the original cartoon of the same name.

Entering the new millennium, Roundtree appeared in John Singleton's “Shaft,” which starred Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft. The film earned fairly good reviews and opened at the No. 1 at the box office when it debuted June 16, 2000. The following year saw him in the motion pictures “Antitrust,” “Hawaiian Gardens” and Rob Pritts’ “Corky Romano.” Roundtree also played Hardy Lester in the Showtime series “Soul Food” from 2000 to 2001 and Nate Khane in two episodes of “Resurrection Blvd.” 2001 also found the actor touring with the play “Men Cry In The Dark.”

Roundtree next teamed up with Leonard Roberts, Til Schweiger and Peta Wilson in the TV film “Joe and Max” (2002), costarred in Richard Standeven's film “Al's Lads” (2002), portrayed Vivica A. Fox's father in Mort Nathan's comedy “Boat Trip” (2002), and appeared in Fred Williamson's horror film “Vegas Vampires” (2003). He also worked with Mickey Hardt, Nikki Schieler Ziering and Scott L. Schwartz in the action film “Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon” (2004) and was cast as Trueman on the teenage film “Brick” (2005), opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He went on to appear in such films as “Painkiller Jane” (2005, TV), “Wild Seven” (2006), “All the Days Before Tomorrow” (2007), “Final Approach” (TV) and “Point of Entry” (2007, TV). In addition, Roundtree portrayed Oliver Travers in the CBS soap “As the World Turns” (2002-2003), Brill in two episodes of “Alias” (2003-2004) and Mr. Shaw in five episodes of “Desperate Housewives” (2004-2005). He then guest starred in “The Closer” (2005), “Blade: The Series” (2006), “Grey's Anatomy” (2006) and “Close to Home” (2006) and portrayed the recurring role of Simone's terminally ill father, Charles Deveaux, in the hit series “Heroes” from 2006 to 2007. The role of Coleman Bradshaw in three episodes of “Lincoln Heights” followed from 2007 to 2009.

Roundtree was next cast as Ben Burns in the Wachowski brothers film “Speed Racer” (2008), which was based on Tatsuo Yoshida's 1960s Japanese series of the same name, costarred with Florence Henderson, Donna Mills and Pam Grier in the TV film “Ladies of the House” (Hallmark Channel, 2008), played J.T. on Ralph E. Portillo's “Set Apart” (2009) and guest starred in “Knight Rider” (2009). He returned to series television as a regular on “Diary of a Single Mom” (2009-2010), where he played Lou Bailey. Costars of the show included Monica Calhoun, Valery M. Ortiz, Janice Lynde, Jonathan Biggs, Zach Callison and Nieko Mann. In 2010, Roundtree was cast in “Collar,” a film written, directed by and starring David Wilson, Theodore Wolf in “Whatever She Wants,” opposite Elimu Nelson and Julie Dickens, and Claude in the thriller “The Confidant,” which was directed and written by Alton Glass. He also played Frank in an episode of “Meet the Browns” called “Meet the Anniversary.”

On January 6, 2011, Roundtree appeared as Floyd Benton in an episode of “The Mentalist” called “Bloodsport.” He is set to appear in the upcoming films “This Bitter Earth” and “Retreat.”


  • MTV Movie: Lifetime Achievement, “Shaft,” 1994

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