“Shaft” Star Richard Roundtree Dies at 81

Richard Roundtree attends the world premiere of Moving On
Richard Roundtree attends the world premiere of Moving On" at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022. Photo by Chris Chew/UPI/Shutterstock (13389770b)

Richard Roundtree, the groundbreaking action star best known for his role in the Shaft franchise, passed away at 81. With over 150 film and TV credits under his belt, Roundtree leaves an incredible legacy behind after being hailed as the first Black action hero in Hollywood.

Roundtree died at his Los Angeles home on October 24 surrounded by his family, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He has five children from his previous marriages with Mary Jane Grant and Karen M. Ciernia.

Roundtree is best known for playing detective John Shaft in the iconic 1971 film Shaft and its four sequels. His career in Hollywood spanned five decades and included everything from his early blaxploitation roles to a recent appearance on Ava DuVernay’s OWN series Cherish the Day, which marks one of his last TV appearances.

Roundtree paved the way for many stars in Hollywood, and tributes poured in after his passing was announced. His Shaft co-star Samuel L. Jackson was one of the first stars to pay homage to the late actors, describing him as “the prototype” and “the best to ever do it”.

SHAFT, as we know it is & will always be His Creation. His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too. Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle of Main Street in Heaven & Issac’s Conducting your song,” wrote Jackson on social media.