Atlanta-based Oscar-winning actor Lou Gossett Jr. has died at age 87

He has key roles in ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ ‘Roots’ and the recent version of ‘The Color Purple.’
Lou Gossett Jr. played Master's crotchety dad in the musical version of "The Color Purple," which came to theaters Dec. 25, 2023. WARNER BROS.

Credit: WAN

Credit: WAN

Lou Gossett Jr. played Master's crotchety dad in the musical version of "The Color Purple," which came to theaters Dec. 25, 2023. WARNER BROS.

Oscar-winning actor Lou Gossett Jr., who moved to metro Atlanta a few years ago, has died at age 87.

His cousin told The Associated Press that the actor died in Santa Monica, California. A statement from the family said Gossett died Friday morning. No cause of death was revealed.

He was the the first Black man to win a supporting actor Oscar for his work in “An Officer and a Gentleman” in 1983 and he took home an Emmy for his role in the popular TV miniseries “Roots” in 1977.

Gossett recently spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his role in “The Color Purple,” which came out in December and was shot in Georgia. He played Mister’s crotchety father Albert “Mister” Johnson.

“It was like a reunion,” he said. “It’s great to be part of that family. It was like Easter and Thanksgiving and Christmas wrapped into one. There was so much love and respect.”

He had been friends for decades with producers Quincy Jones, Oprah Winfrey and Georgia-born Alice Walker, author of the 1982 best-selling book “The Color Purple.”

As a child, the New York native spent summers in Athens with his great-grandmother. “It was a farm with watermelon, cabbage and okra,” he said. “It was all organic. We were poor but very healthy!”

Louis Gossett Jr. earned an Emmy nomination for his role in "The Watchmen," which was filmed in metro Atlanta. Mark Hill/HBO

Credit: CR: Mark Hill. Lou Gossett Jr. as a mysterious man in a wheelchair on HBO's 'Watchmen'

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Credit: CR: Mark Hill. Lou Gossett Jr. as a mysterious man in a wheelchair on HBO's 'Watchmen'

Gossett moved to Fayetteville in 2018. “It’s a bungalow with a nice yard and an indoor swimming pool,” he said. About that time, he nabbed a key role in the HBO series “Watchman” in 2019, which was shot at Trilith Studios not far from his new home.

While in Atlanta, his favorite restaurants included Atlanta Fish Market and South City Kitchen, which “feels like home to me.” And he regularly attended the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church.

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Louis Gossett Jr., the Emmy Award-winning actor who called our city home...,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement. “As a city, we are grateful for the privilege of having had Louis Gossett Jr. among us, and we join together in honoring his life and contributions.”

Gossett also liked to visit area universities and churches, offering wisdom to the youth. “I love speaking my experience, strength and hope to the young,” he told the AJC.

Gossett’s cousin Neal Gossett remembered a man who walked with Nelson Mandela and told great jokes, a relative who faced and fought racism with dignity and humor.

“Never mind the awards, never mind the glitz and glamor, the Rolls-Royces and the big houses in Malibu. It’s about the humanity of the people that he stood for,” his cousin said.

Gossett found fame on the small screen as Fiddler in the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots,” which depicted the atrocities of slavery on TV. The sprawling cast included Ben Vereen, LeVar Burton and John Amos.

He became the third Black Oscar nominee in the supporting actor category in 1983 and won for his performance as the intimidating Marine drill instructor in “An Officer and a Gentleman” opposite Richard Gere and Debra Winger. He also won a Golden Globe for the same role.

Lou Gossett Jr. received an Oscar for his role in 1982 drama "An Officer and a Gentleman." LORIMAR PRODUCTIONS

Credit: LORI

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Credit: LORI

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has been corrected, based on a family statement, to report that Gossett died Friday morning and not Thursday night.

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