Perhaps best known for his role as the tough gunnery sergeant Emil Foley in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982), Louis Gossett Jr. became the first African American to win an Academy Award for supporting actor and the second African American man to win an Oscar after Sidney Poitier.
Gossett, who was born in 1936 to a nurse and a porter, tried out for his first play “Take a Giant Step” in 1953, beating out 400 candidates and earning a role on the Broadway stage at only 16 years old.
Gossett attended New York University, declining a varsity basketball scholarship to concentrate on theater instead, earning early acclaim for his performances in “The Desk Set” (1955) and Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” (1959).
Gossett’s breakout performance on television, as Fiddler in the ABC miniseries “Roots” (1977), earned him wide acclaim and an Emmy.
In the ‘70s he appeared in comedies and dramas, including “The Landlord” (1970), “Skin Game” (1971) and “The Deep” (1977), in which he played the memorable drug dealer Henri Cloche opposite Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset.
In the ’80s, Gossett earned a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in “Sadat,” and in 1992, he won a Golden Globe for his role as Sidney Williams in HBO’s “The Josephine Baker Story.”
Gossett started the Eracism Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at creating entertainment that helps bring awareness and education to issues such as racism, ignorance and societal apathy. He has been married three times.
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