Actor Louis Gossett Jr. in Atlanta
By Autumn Murray – This article originally appeared in the Georgia Hollywood Review
Actor Louis Gossett Jr. is an icon in the film and television industry, with over 400 acting credits in his repertoire. He is highly known for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 romantic drama film An Officer and a Gentleman, in which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor—the first black actor to receive the award.
He has also won an Emmy Award for his role as Fiddler in the 1977 ABC television miniseries Roots. The highly acclaimed series broke television records and was even viewed more times than the American classic Gone With the Wind.
Gossett Jr. started acting at the age of 15 and worked throughout the 1950s and ‘60s on Broadway making a good living. In 1967 he made his way to Los Angeles for roles in film and television. On his first day in Los Angeles, he went for a drive and was pulled over by police officers because they thought his music was too loud. They pulled him out of the car, chained him to a tree for hours, and eventually released him because he hadn’t committed a crime. Even in the south where he had visited several times to help harvest his family’s watermelon farm over the course of several summers, he had not been treated in such a degrading manner. This experience changed the way he viewed the world from that moment on and it is one of the main reasons why he founded The Eracism Foundation.
Gossett Jr. founded The Eracism Foundation with the mission of contributing to the creation of a society where racism does not exist. The foundation defines eracism as “the removal from existence of the belief that one race, one culture, one people is superior to another.”
Throughout his acting career, getting jobs was twice as hard for Gossett Jr. and he was typically paid on a lower scale than his white co-stars. Even winning the Oscar didn’t change his ability to be equally compensated or get first opportunities in starring roles. However, he believes that going through all these things made him the person that he is today.
In his book, An Actor and a Gentleman, Gossett Jr. highlights the problem of racism in Hollywood and the challenges faced by black actors from the 1950s through to today. It also includes revealing stories and his friendships and interactions with celebrities, including Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, Shirley Booth, Sammy Davis Jr., Steve McQueen, Richard Gere, Halle Berry, and many more.
Gossett Jr. has been acting for more than 70 years. He is also known for his acting roles in A Raisin in the Sun with Sidney Poitier, Skin Game with James Garner, Enemy Mine with Dennis Quaid, The Deep with Jacqueline Bisset, Toy Soldiers with Sean Austin, Iron Eagle with Jason Gedrick, the Return to Lonesome Dove miniseries with Barbara Hershey, Lackawanna Blues with S. Epatha Merkerson, the Watchmen series on HBO featuring Regina King, Jean Smart, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Don Johnson, and several others.
AM: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ANY OF THE FILM PROJECTS YOU ARE WORKING ON?
LG: I am superstitious. I don’t talk about the projects that I am involved in until they are released. I can tell you about The Cuban airing on Netflix, which I am very proud of; as well as Foster Boy, which can be viewed on BET and several streaming services. The Cuban combines music, romance, loss, and memories into an emotional tale that spans cultures and generations. I play a former Havana jazzman with Alzheimer’s whose mind is revived through Cuban music.
Foster Boy is about a high-powered lawyer and an angry young man who has been imprisoned after years overcome their differences to find justice and expose the foster care system. My character is the judge in the foster care trial.
Gossett Jr. has survived two bouts with cancer and at the age of 85, he is not showing any signs of slowing down. Gossett Jr. is still taking on acting roles and has several projects in production and others in negotiation. He will be launching his podcast For What It’s Worth in the next few weeks where he speaks as an elder, sharing his stories and life experiences for the younger generations to engage in and learn from. The show’s guests will include music artists, dancers, writers, athletes, and motivational speakers.
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