Richard Roundtree – aka “Shaft” – died at 81

Actor Richard Roundtree, who is hailed as the first black action hero, passed away Tuesday after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Roundtree became hotter, cooler and sexier than James Bond and Steve McQueen when he first stepped onto the screen as New York private investigator John Shaft, the cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all around: a complicated man that no one understands but his woman.

Directed by Gordon Parks, the 1971 film Shaft not only helped paved the way for the blaxploitation genre, but made Roundtree into a cultural icon. Also backed up by Issac Hayes’ Oscar-winning theme song, the film spawned Shaft’s Big Score (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973), and a short-lived television series. Roundtree reprised his role in the 2000 reboot/sequel and the 2019 follow-up with Samuel L. Jackson.

Roundtree made guest appearances on shows such as Renegade, Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and Touched By An Angel, and has had recurring roles on A Different World, Roc, and Soul Food. He was a regular as Isaiah “Ice” McAdams on CBS’ sci-fi Western/detective/adventure series Outlaws (1986-87), and was also in the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries Roots.

Roundtree’s other credits includes the 1981 film An Eye For An Eye with Chuck Norris, and 1996’s Original Gangstas with fellow blaxploitation icons Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Ron O’Neal, and Jim Brown. 

Richard Roundtree was 81 years old. 

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