Louis Gossett Jr.

Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. (born May 27, 1936) is an American actor. He is best known for his Academy Award winning role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, and his role as Fiddler in the 1977 ABC television miniseries Roots. Gossett has also starred in numerous other film productions including A Raisin in the Sun, The Landlord, Skin Game, Travels with My Aunt, The Laughing Policeman, The Deep, Jaws 3-D, Wolfgang Petersen's Enemy Mine, the Iron Eagle series, Toy Soldiers and The Punisher, in an acting career that spans over five decades.[1]

Louis Gossett Jr.
Gossett in February 2008
Louis Cameron Gossett Jr.

(1936-05-27) May 27, 1936
Years active1957–present
Hattie Glascoe
(m. 1967; annulled 1968)

Christina Mangosing
(m. 1973; div. 1975)

Cyndi James-Reese
(m. 1987; div. 1992)
RelativesRobert Gossett (first cousin)

Early life and education

Gossett was born in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York, on May 27, 1936, to Hellen Rebecca (née Wray), a nurse, and Louis Gossett Sr., a porter. He is an alumnus of Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 and Abraham Lincoln High School. His stage debut came at the age of 17, in a school production of You Can't Take It with You when a sports injury resulted in the decision to take an acting class. Polio had already delayed his graduation.

After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1954, he attended New York University, declining an athletic scholarship.[2] Standing 6'1" (1.86 m), he was offered the opportunity to play varsity basketball during his college years at NYU, which he declined to concentrate on theater. His high school teacher had encouraged him to audition for a Broadway part, which resulted in his selection for a starring role on Broadway in 1953 from among 200 other actors well before he entered NYU.


Gossett replaced Bill Gunn as Spencer Scott in Broadway's Take a Giant Step,[3] which was selected by The New York Times drama critics as one of the 10 best shows of the year. He was 17, and still a student at Abraham Lincoln High School, with no formal drama training.

Gossett's Broadway theatre credits include A Raisin in the Sun (1959). Gossett stepped into the world of cinema in the Sidney Poitier vehicle A Raisin in the Sun in 1961.

Also in 1961, Gossett appeared in the original cast of Jean Genet's The Blacks, the longest running off-Broadway play of the decade, running for 1,408 performances. The original cast also featured James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Cicely Tyson, Godfrey Cambridge, Maya Angelou and Charles Gordone.[4]

In 1965, Gossett appeared in the musical play Zulu and the Zayda on Broadway as Paulus with music and lyrics by Harold Rome.

Gossett wrote the antiwar folk song "Handsome Johnny" with Richie Havens which Havens recorded in 1966.

His Emmy Award-winning role of Fiddler in the 1977 television miniseries Roots first brought Gossett to the audience's attention.

In 1983, he was cast in the title role in Sadat, a miniseries which chronicled the life and assassination of Anwar Sadat. While filming An Officer and a Gentleman, Gossett was also starring in the 1982–1983 science fiction series, The Powers of Matthew Star. His role as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was the first black male to win an Oscar in a supporting role, the second black male to win for acting, and the third black actor to win overall.

In 1986, Gossett starred in another role as a military man (Colonel Chappy Sinclair) in the film Iron Eagle. It was followed by three sequels.

Gossett is the voice of the Vortigaunts in the video game Half-Life 2 and is the Free Jaffa Leader Gerak in Season 9 of the sci-fi television series Stargate SG-1. He provides the voice of Lucius Fox in The Batman animated series. He recorded several commercials for a Nashville-based diabetic company, AmMed Direct, LLC. In 1997, Gossett presented When Animals Attack! 4, a one-hour special on Fox.

He played the role of fictional U.S. President Gerald Fitzhugh in the 2005 film Left Behind: World at War. In 2008 he filmed the "Keep It Real" series of commercials for the Namibian lager Windhoek.

In 2009, Gossett also lent his voice talents in the Thomas Nelson audio Bible production known as The Word of Promise. In this dramatized audio, Gossett played the character of John the Apostle. The project also featured a large ensemble of well known Hollywood actors including Jim Caviezel, John Rhys-Davies, Jon Voight, Gary Sinise, Jason Alexander, Christopher McDonald, Marisa Tomei and John Schneider.[5][6]

In 2013, Gossett starred in the controversial drama Boiling Pot, which is based on true events of racism that occurred on college campuses across the US during the 2008 Presidential election. The film, written and directed by the Ashmawey brothers under AshmaweyFilms, also stars Danielle Fishel, Keith David, M. Emmet Walsh, and John Heard. Gossett plays a detective attempting to decipher a murder case that was fueled by racism, all while putting aside his own prejudices. Boiling Pot was released in 2014. Gossett returned to television in the CBS All Access series, The Good Fight, guest starring as founding partner Carl Reddick of Diane Lockhart's new firm.[7] He narrated an audiobook based on Twelve Years a Slave.[8]

Personal life

Gossett has been married three times and fathered one son and adopted one son. His first marriage was to Hattie Glascoe; it was annulled. His second, to Christina Mangosing, took place on August 21, 1973. Their son Satie was born in 1974. Gossett and Mangosing divorced in 1975. His third marriage, to Star Search champion Cyndi James-Reese, took place on December 25, 1987. They adopted a son, Sharron (born 1977). Gossett and James-Reese divorced in 1992.[9]

Louis is the first cousin of actor Robert Gossett who starred on TNT's The Closer.

According to DNA analysis, he is descended, chiefly, from people of Liberia and Sierra Leone.[10]

On February 9, 2010, Gossett announced that he had prostate cancer. He added the disease was caught in its early stages, and he expected to make a full recovery.[11][12]

On July 18, 2016, Gossett cohosted as a guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies' primetime lineup. Allowed to choose four movies to air, he selected Blackboard Jungle, Lifeboat, Touch of Evil and The Night of the Hunter.



Year Title Role Notes
1961A Raisin in the SunGeorge Murchison
1969The BushbabyTembo
1970The LandlordCopee
1971Skin GameJason O'Rourke
1972Travels with My AuntZachary/'Wordsworth'
1973The Fuzz BrothersFrancis Fuzz
1973The Laughing PolicemanInsp. James Larrimore SFPD
1974The White DawnPortagee
1976The River NigerDr. Dudley Stanton
1976J. D.'s RevengeRev. Elija Bliss
1977The DeepHenri Cloche
1977The ChoirboysCalvin Motts
1980It Rained All Night the Day I LeftLeo Garcia
1982An Officer and a GentlemanGunnery Sergeant Emil FoleyAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
1983Jaws 3-DCalvin BouchardNominated Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
1984Finders KeepersCentury
1985Enemy MineJeriba 'Jerry' ShiganNominated Saturn Award for Best Actor
1986Iron EagleChappy Sinclair
1986FirewalkerLeo Porter
1987The PrincipalJake Phillips
1987A Gathering of Old MenMathu
1988Iron Eagle IIChappy Sinclair
1989The PunisherJake Berkowitz
1991Cover UpCIA boss Lou Jackson
1991Toy SoldiersDean Parker
1992Aces: Iron Eagle IIIChappy Sinclair
1992Diggstown'Honey' Roy Palmer
1993MonolithCapt. MacCandless
1993FlashfireBen Durand
1994Blue ChipsFather Dawkins
1994A Good Man in AfricaProf. Sam Adekunle
1994Curse of the Starving ClassEllis
1995Iron Eagle on the AttackChappy Sinclair
1997The Wall That HealsNarrator
1997Legend of the MummyCorbeck
2000The HighwaymanPhil Bishop
2002DeceivedCol. David GarrettDirect-to-video release
2005WindowRalph StanleyIncluded as part of African American Short Films[13]
2005Left Behind: World at WarPresident Gerald Fitzhugh
2006All InCaps
2006Club SodaDoc
2007Daddy's Little GirlsWillie
2007CoverDet. Hicks
2008The Perfect GameCool Papa Bell
2008DelgoZahnVoice only
2009Dog JackGrown up Jed
2009Shannon's RainbowMax
2009The Least Among YouSamuel Benton
2010SmittyMr. Smith
2010Why Did I Get Married Too?Porter
2011The Grace CardGeorge Wright
2011A Fonder HeartGlen
2011The LampThe Genie
2012The UndershepherdBishop Redford
2014A Fighting ManCubby
2014The DependablesLou Jones
2015Boiling PotDetective Haven
2017Undercover GrandpaMother
2017Double PlayCoco
2017Breaking BrooklynMiles Bryant
2019Foster BoyJudge


Year Title Role Notes
1958The Big StoryJamie GoodwinEpisode: "The Stubbornest Man"
1962The NursesWilliam TaylorEpisode: "The Prisoner"
196768Cowboy in AfricaFulah
Episode: "Fang and Claw"
Episode: "The Quiet Death"
1968The InvadersOllieEpisode: "The Vise"
1968DaktariMkonoEpisode: "Adam and Jenny"
1968Companions in NightmareLt. Adam McKayNBC television film
1968The Mod SquadSgt William Smith (Smithy)Episode: "When Smitty Comes Marching Home"
1970The Bill Cosby ShowHurricane SmithEpisode: "The Return of Big Bad Bubba Bronson"
197071The Young RebelsIsak Poole
1971Big Fish, Little FishJimmie Luton
1971The Partridge FamilySamEpisode: "Soul Club"
1971BonanzaBuck WalterEpisode: "The Desperado"
1971LongstreetSergeant CoryEpisode: "The Way of the Intercepting Fist"
1971The Bold Ones: The New DoctorsDr. KarnesEpisode: "One Lonely Step"
1971Alias Smith and JonesJoe SimsEpisode: "The Bounty Hunter"
1971Cade's CountyEpisode: "The Alien Land"
1972InsightEpisode: "The Man from Inner Space"
1972The Living EndDoug NewmanCBS television pilot
1972The RookiesToby JonesEpisode: "Covenant with Death"
1972Love, American StyleFreddySegment: "Love and the Christmas Punch..."
The Mod SquadSmitty
Charley Jameson
Episode: "When Smitty Comes Marching Home"
Episode: "The Uptight Town"
Episode: "Can You Hear Me Out There?"
1973Owen Marshall: Counselor at LawEpisode: "An Often and Familiar Ghost"
1974It's Good to Be AliveSam BrockingtonCBS television film
1974SidekicksJason O'RourkeTV remake of Gossett's 1971 Skin Game
CBS television film
1974The White DawnPortageeABC television film
1974McCloudDewey JustinEpisode: Shivaree on Delancy Street
1974The New LandSimon YorkEpisode: "The Word is: Dignity" (never aired)
1974–75PetrocelliD.A. Kurt OlsonEpisode: "A Very Lonely Lady" and "A Fallen Idol"
1974–75Good TimesDonald Knight
Uncle Wilbert
Episode: "Thelma's Young Man"
Episode: "Michael's Big Fall"
1975Lucas TannerBobby KoballEpisode: "Bonus Baby"
1975Black BartBlack BartCBS television film
1975Delancey Street: The Crisis WithinOtis JamesNBC television film
1975CaribeDavid WallaceEpisode: "The Assassin"
1975Harry OCleon JacksonEpisode: "Shades"
1975The JeffersonsWendell BrownEpisode: "George's Best Friend"
1975The Six Million Dollar ManO'FlahertyEpisode: "Clark Templeton O'Flaherty"
1975–76Police StoryFreddie
Virgil Barnes
Episode: "The Cut Man Caper"
Episode: "50 Cents-First Half Hour, $1.75 All Day"
1976Little House on the PrairieHenry HillEpisode: "The Long Road Home"
1976The Rebels
1976–77The Rockford FilesMarcus 'Gabby' HayesEpisode: Foul on the First Play and Just Another Polish Wedding
1977Little Ladies of the NightRuss GarfieldABC television film
1977RootsFiddlerABC miniseries
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series
TV Land Award
1977Visions RexEpisode: "Freeman"
1978The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His RootsNominated Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program
1978To Kill a CopEverett WalkerUncredited Role
NBC television film
1978The Critical ListLem HarperNBC television film
1979Backstairs at the White HouseLevi MercerNBC miniseries
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special
1979Lawman Without a GunTom HaywardNBC television film
1979The Lazarus SyndromeDr. MacArthur St. ClairABC television film
1980Palmerstown, USANominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
1981Don't Look Back: The Story of Leroy 'Satchel' PaigeLeroy 'Satchel' PaigeABC television film
1982American PlayhouseEpisode: "Zora Is My Name!"
1982Benny's PlaceBenny MooreABC television film
1982Saturday Night LiveHostEpisode: "Louis Gossett Jr/George Thorogood & the Destroyers"
1982–83The Powers of Matthew StarWalter 'Walt' Shepherd/D'Hai
1983SadatAnwar al-SadatTelevision film
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
1984The GuardianJohn MackNominated CableACE Award for Best Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
HBO television film
1987A Gathering of Old MenMathuCBS television film
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1987The Father Clements StoryFather ClementsNBC television film
1988Sam Found Out: A Triple PlayABC television film
1988Goodbye, Miss 4th of JulyBig John CreedDisney Channel television film
1988Roots: The GiftFiddlerABC television film
1989Gideon OliverGideon Oliver
1990El DiabloVan LeekHBO television film
1990Sudie and SimpsonSimpsonTelevision film
1991-92Captain Planet and the PlaneteersCommander ClashVoice role (3 episodes)
1991The Josephine Baker StorySidney WilliamsHBO television film
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1991Carolina SkeletonsJames BraggNBC television film
1992Keeper of the CityDet. James DelaTelevision film
1993Story of a PeopleHostMiniseries
1993Gridiron GangHostDocumentary film
1993Father & Son: Dangerous RelationsNBC television film
1993Return to Lonesome DoveIsom PickettMiniseries
1994Picket FencesRick JenningsEpisode: "Terms of Estrangement"
1994Ray Alexander: A Taste for JusticeRay AlexanderNBC television film
1995A Father for CharlieWalter Osgood
1995ZoomanRueben Tate
1995Ray Alexander: A Menu for MurderRay Alexander
1996Captive Heart: The James Mink StoryJames MinkNominated NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Television film
1996Run for the Dream: The Gail Devers StoryBob KerseeTelevision film
1996InsideQuestionerTelevision film
1997Touched by an AngelAnderson WalkerEpisode: "Amazing Grace"
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
1997To Dance with OliviaDaniel StewartCBS television film
1997In His Father's ShoesFrank Crosby/RichardShowtime television film
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Special
Nominated CableACE Award for Best Children's Special - 7 and Older
Nominated Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special
1997Early EditionJim MatthewsEpisode: "The Medal"
1997EllenSgt. TimkoEpisode: "G.I. Ellen"
1998The InspectorsInspector Frank HughesShowtime television film
1999Love SongsReubenSegment: "A Love Song for Dad"; Showtime television film
Black Reel Award for Best Director: T.V. Movie/Cable
Nominated Black Reel Award for Best Actor: T.V. Movie/Cable
1999Strange JusticeVernon JordanShowtime television film
2000Dr. LucilleDavid MuleraTelevision film
2000The Inspectors 2: A Shred of EvidenceInspector Frank HughesShowtime television film
2000ThemColor of Love: Jacey's StoryLou HastingsCBS television film
Nominated Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
2001For Love of OliviaDaniel StewartCBS television film
2002Opening Ceremony Salt Lake Paralympic Winter GamesNarratorNominated Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Special
2002What About Your Friends: Weekend GetawayDr. BarnesUPN television film
2002Resurrection Blvd.Ezekiel 'Zeke' GrantEpisode: "En Un Momento" and "Esperando Lagrimas"
2003The Dead ZonePastor David LewisEpisode: "Zion"
2003Jasper, TexasR.C. HornNominated NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Showtime television film
2003MomentumRaymond AddisonSCI FI television film
2004Half & HalfRay WillisEpisode: "The Big Lover, My Brother Episode" and "The Big Thanks for Nothing Episode"
2005Solar AttackPresident Ryan GordonDirect-to-DVD release
2005Lackawanna BluesOl'lem TaylorHBO television film
2005–06Stargate SG-1Gerak5 episodes
2006Family GuySergeant AngrymanVoice role
Episode: "Saving Private Brian"
2007The BatmanLucius FoxVoice role
2009ERLeo MalcolmEpisode: "The Family Man"
2012PsychLloydEpisode: "Heeeeere's Lassie"
2013Boardwalk EmpireOscar BoneauEpisode: "Havre de Grace"
2014–15Extant QuinnRecurring; 4 episodes
2014Madam Secretary Father Laurent VasseurEpisode: "The Call"
2015The Book of NegroesDaddy Moses2 episodes
2015The Spoils Before DyingDuke WebsterEpisode: "The Trip Trap"
2017The Good FightCarl ReddickEpisode: "Reddick v Boseman"
2018Hap and LeonardBaconSeason 3
2018Hawaii Five-0Percy Grover Sr.Episode: "Lele pū nā manu like" (Hawaiian for: "Birds of a Feather...")
2019WatchmenWill Reeves/Hooded Justice


  • 1964: Supporting role in the Broadway musical adaptation of Odets' Golden Boy.
  • 2006: Dvorak's New World: Chamber Music Plus. Louis Gossett Jr., narrator, with Aubrey Allicock (Baritone), Sanda Schuldmann (piano), and Harry Clark (writer).[14][15]


  1. Collins, Glenn (February 19, 1989). "Lou Gossett Jr. Battles the Hollywood Stereotype". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  2. Pfefferman, Naomi. "Louis Gossett Jr. to Give Shul Inaugural Ball Toast", The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, January 15, 2009. Accessed September 23, 2009. "Gossett suspects that his English teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School, Gustave Blum, identified with African Americans because he had experienced anti-Semitism as a result of the blacklists."
  3. "Take A Giant Step". Jan Hus Playhouse. Lortel Archives. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  4. "Louis Gossett Jr". The History Makers. 30 March 2005. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  5. "The Word of Promise: Cast". Word of Promise. Thomas Nelson Publishing. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  6. Groves, Martha (16 November 2009). "BELIEFS : Stars lined up for elaborate audio Bible : Michael York, Jason Alexander and many others gave voice to a 79-CD reading of Old and New Testaments". LA Times. Archived from the original on 14 February 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  7. Ng, Philiana (9 February 2017). "Exclusive: 'The Good Fight' Creators Reveal Three New Guest Stars". ET Online. CBS Television Distribution. CBS Studios Inc. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  8. Morgan, Jennifer Wilde (February 23, 2016). Come to the Garden: A Novel. Simon and Schuster. p. 200. ISBN 9781501131332.
  9. "Louis Gossett Jr". Superior Pics. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  10. "Growing Interest in DNA-Based Genetic Testing Among African American with Historic Election of President Elect Barack Obama". PRWeb. Cision. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  11. Abrams, Natalie (9 February 2010). "Louis Gossett Jr. Diagnosed with Cancer". TVGuide.com. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  12. Moring, Mark (23 February 2011). "A Healing Journey". Christianity Today. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  13. "African American Short Films". TVGuide.com.
  14. "Dvorak's New World". CMP South West. 3 December 2006. Archived from the original on 5 January 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  15. Reel, James (30 November 2006). "Burleigh's Greatest Hits". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
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