Samuel L. Jackson honored his late friend Richard Roundtree Tuesday evening following the news that Roundtree had died at the age of 81 from pancreatic cancer.
Taking to Instagram, The Marvels star penned a heartfelt tribute to his Shaft co-star, touching on Roundtree’s acting abilities, his commitment to the craft, and the “deep hole” that his death has created.
“Richard Roundtree, The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!! SHAFT, as we know it is & will always be His Creation!!” Jackson wrote in a post. “His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too🤎👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾.”
Roundtree originated the role of Detective John Shaft in the 1971 film and in two sequels, Shaft’s Big Adventure in 1972 and Shaft In Africa in 1973. He later appeared as the uncle of Jackson’s same-named character in the 2000 reboot and a 2019 sequel. The character is widely regarded as the first Black action hero.
“Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle of Main Street in Heaven & Issac’s Conducting your song🎶🎶👊🏾coat blowin’ in wind!! Angels whispering, ‘That Cat SHAFT Is A Bad Mutha, Shutcho Mouth!! But I’m Talkin’ Bout SHAFT!! THEN WE CAN DIGIT,'” Jackson shared.
In a statement to ET, Roundtree’s agency and manager confirmed that the actor died Tuesday after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. His family was with him at his bedside, the statement said.
“Artists & Representatives Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree,” the agency wrote. “His trailblazing career changed the face of entertainment around the globe and his enduring legacy will be felt for generations to come. Our hearts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
While the actor is best known for his role as the no-nonsense New York private detective, his IMDB page showcases the extent of his seven-decade career in Hollywood, with more than 150 appearances on shows and movies over the years.
Roundtree’s other film credits include Inchon, Se7en, George of the Jungle and Moving On. On TV, Roundtree appeared on Roots, Alias, Desperate Housewives and Family Reunion.
Roundtree’s other co-stars from his decade-spanning career also shared tributes to the late actor Tuesday evening following the news of his death, contributing their favorite memories and offering condolences to his family.
The actor’s Being Mary Jane co-star Gabrielle Union reacted to his death on X (formerly Twitter), writing, “Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream. Getting to hang with him & our Being Mary Jane family was always a good ass time with the best stories & laughs. He was ALWAYS the coolest man in the room with the BEST vibes & ppl would literally run over to come see him. He was simply the best & we all loved him.”
Abbott Elementary star Sheryl Lee Ralph wrote in a post on X that it was her “dream” to meet Roundtree as a teen and that she is glad she had the opportunity to in her career.
“When I was a teenager I use to dream about growing up to meet Richard Roundtree. I did and what a wonderful human being,” the Emmy winner, 66, wrote, sharing a screenshot of Roundtree as Shaft in the eponymous film.
Roundtree’s Family Reunion co-star Tia Mowry took to Instagram Tuesday night to share a behind-the-scenes photo from the Netflix series along with fellow actress Loretta Devine and actor Anthony Alabi.
“I have no words for this loss 💔 Richard, you have made such a lasting impact on my life. I am forever grateful for your warm energy, your light, your heart, and your incredible wisdom 🕊️,” the Sister, Sister actress, 45, shared.
“I will miss you and our times together in our trailers – you teaching me the right way to take down some whiskey. I love you. Thank you for blessing this world with your gifts 🙏🏿 Rest in Power #RichardRoundtree,” Mowry wrote.
On Instagram, Power star Omari Hardwick penned a tribute to Roundtree, thanking him for his work alongside other Black artists and activists.
“You meant SO much to SO many! Especially me! As a black american artisan…i will forever be as indebted to you & your shoulders as i am to Malcolm, Martin, Muhammad, Mandela, Sydney, Harry, Cicely, Ossie, Ruby, Yaphet, Gordon, Melvin, Langston, Maya, Billie, Marvin, Donny, James, Sam, Michael, Prince, Tupac & the likes,” Hardwick wrote, adding that his own character on the Starz show was an “homage” to Roundtree’s work.
“The character Ghost i had the honor of helping to bring to light & “life” was undoubtedly a consistent homage to the timeless work you created & left us with. SMOOTH in all things life & art. Rest in your eternal paradise & power King Richard🙏🏾👑❣️🕊️,” Hardwick, 49, continued.
Comedian Loni Love took to X to mourn Roudtree’s death, writing, “Sad to hear of the passing of Richard Roundtree.. He was fabulous as John Shaft at a time when there were few leading Black men in film. He put the sexy and cool in being a detective. Rest well. Condolences to his family.”
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