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2022 Toronto International Film Festival - "Moving On" Premiere

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Groundbreaking actor Richard Roundtree died Tuesday (Oct. 24) at the age of 81. The entertainer is best known for his role in the groundbreaking Shaft franchise. Check out a gallery of Richard Roundtree’s flyest photos throughout the years to celebrate the first Black action hero inside.

Born on July 9, 1942, Roundtree was destined for greatness. His professional career first blossomed when he began modeling in the Ebony Fashion Far after being scouted by all-star businesswoman Eunice W. Johnson. After his notable success as a model with Fashion Fair, he began modeling for other products like Johnson Products’ Duke hair grease and Salem cigarettes.

Roundtree was a leading man in early 1970s blaxploitation films, his best-known role being detective John Shaft in the action movie, Shaft (1971) and its sequels, Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973). Roundtree also appeared opposite Laurence Olivier and Ben Gazzara in Inchon (1981). On television, he played the slave Sam Bennett in the 1977 television series “Roots” and Dr. Daniel Reubens on “Generations” from 1989 to 1991. He played another private detective in 1984’s City Heat opposite Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. Although Roundtree continued working throughout the 1990s, many of his films were not well-received. Still, he found success elsewhere in stage plays.

He reemerged on the small screen as a cultural icon. On September 19, 1991, Roundtree appeared in an episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210” with Vivica A. Fox. The episode was “Ashes to Ashes”, Roundtree portrayed Robinson Ashe Jr. The legendary actor also appeared in David Fincher’s critically acclaimed 1995 movie Seven, and in the 2000 Shaft, again as John Shaft, with Samuel L. Jackson playing the title character, who is described as the original Shaft’s nephew.

Roundtree guest-starred in several episodes of the first season of “Desperate Housewives” as an amoral private detective. He also appeared in 1997’s George of the Jungle and played a high-school vice-principal in the 2005 movie, Brick. He was also the voice actor for the title character in the hit PlayStation game Akuji the Heartless.

Most recently, Roundtree co-starred in the comedy film What Men Want in 2019. He also returned to the role of John Shaft in Shaft, a sequel to the 2000 film, opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Jessie Usher, who portray John Shaft II and John Shaft III, respectively. Also in 2019, Roundtree had a recurring role on “Family Reunion.”

Roundtree’s longtime manager, Patrick McMinn, confirmed to ABC News that Roundtree died following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. The film and TV icon will forever be embedded in our hearts.

Check out a gallery of Richard Roundtree to celebrate his amazing life and legacy below:

1. Rest In Power


2. A True Legend


3. Icon In Our Hearts


4. An Example Of Living In His Purpose


5. So Fly


6. A Pioneer


7. An Inspiration


8. Groundbreaking Star


9. A Legend


10. Our Hero