Richard Roundtree facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Roundtree in a 1973 publicity photo
July 9, 1942|
New Rochelle, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 24, 2023
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Education||New Rochelle High School|
|Alma mater||Southern Illinois University|
|John Shaft – Shaft (1971), Shaft's Big Score! (1972), Shaft in Africa (1973), Shaft (2000), Shaft (2019)|
Mary Jane Grant
(m. 1963; div. 1973)
Karen M. Ciernia
(m. 1980; div. 1998)
Richard Roundtree (July 9, 1942 – October 24, 2023) was an American actor, noted as being "the first black action hero" for his portrayal of private detective John Shaft in the 1971 film Shaft, and its four sequels, released between 1972 and 2019. For his performance in the original film, Roundtree was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor in 1972.
Early life and education
Born July 9, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York, to John Roundtree and Kathryn Watkins, Roundtree attended New Rochelle High School; graduating in 1961. During high school, Roundtree played for the school's undefeated and nationally ranked football team. Following high school, Roundtree attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Roundtree dropped out of college in 1963 to begin his acting career.
Roundtree began his professional career around 1963. Roundtree began modeling in the Ebony Fashion Fair after being scouted by Eunice W. Johnson. After his modeling success with the Fashion Fair, Roundtree began modeling for such products as Johnson Products' Duke hair grease and Salem cigarettes. In 1967, Roundtree joined the Negro Ensemble Company. His first role while a part of the company was portraying boxing legend Jack Johnson in the company's production of The Great White Hope. According to J. E. Franklin, he acted in the Off-Off-Broadway production of her play Mau Mau Room, by the Negro Ensemble Company Workshop Festival, at St. Mark's Playhouse in 1969, directed by Shauneille Perry.
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 worked throughout the 1990s, many of his films were not well-received, but he found success elsewhere in stage plays.
During that period, however, 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 playing Robinson Ashe Jr. Roundtree 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. His voice was utilized as the title character in the hit PlayStation game Akuji the Heartless, where Akuji must battle his way out of the depths of Hell at the bidding of the Baron.
In 1997–1998, Roundtree had a leading role as Phil Thomas in the short-lived Fox ensemble drama, 413 Hope St. He portrayed Booker T. Washington in the 1999 television movie Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years.
Beginning in 2005, Roundtree appeared in the television series The Closer as Colonel D. B. Walter, U.S.M.C. (retired), the father of a sniper, and in Heroes as Simone's terminally ill father, Charles Deveaux. Next, Roundtree appeared as Eddie's father-in-law in episodes of Lincoln Heights. Roundtree then had a supporting role in the 2008 Speed Racer film as a racer-turned-commentator who is an icon and hero to Speed. He also appeared in the two-parter in Knight Rider (2008) as the father of FBI Agent Carrie Ravai, and co-starred as the father of the lead character on Being Mary Jane, which has aired on BET since 2013.
In 2019, Roundtree co-starred in the comedy film What Men Want, and 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. This time, Roundtree's character was described as Jackson's character's father, while acknowledging that Roundtree had pretended to be Jackson's Shaft's uncle in the 2000 movie. He also starred in the movie, Family Reunion in 2019.
Personal life, health problems, and death
Roundtree was married and divorced twice and had five children. His first marriage was to Mary Jane Grant, whom he married on November 27, 1963. Roundtree and Grant had two children before divorcing in December 1973. He dated actress and TV personality Cathy Lee Crosby shortly thereafter. Roundtree later married Karen M. Ciernia in September 1980; together they had three children. Roundtree and Ciernia divorced in 1998. Roundtree was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Roundtree died of pancreatic cancer at his Los Angeles home on October 24, 2023, at the age of 81.
|1972||Embassy||Richard "Dick" Shannon|
|Shaft's Big Score!||John Shaft|
|1973||Charley-One-Eye||The Black Man|
|Shaft in Africa||John Shaft|
|1979||Escape to Athena||Nat Judson|
|Portrait of a Hitman||"Coco" Morrell|
|Game for Vultures||Gideon Marunga|
|Days of the Assassin||Fessler|
|1980||Gypsy Angels||Dr. Carlson|
|1981||Inchon||Sergeant Augustus Henderson|
|An Eye for an Eye||Captain Stevens|
|One Down, Two to Go||Ralph|
|1983||Young Warriors||Sergeant John Austin|
|The Big Score||Gordon|
|1984||Killpoint||Agent Bill Bryant|
|City Heat||Dehl Swift|
|1988||Maniac Cop||Commissioner Pike|
|Party Line||Captain Barnes|
|Angel III: The Final Chapter||Lieutenant Doniger|
|Night Visitors||Captain Crane|
|1991||A Time to Die||Captain Ralph Phipps|
|1992||Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight||Samuel Stark|
|1993||Body of Influence||Harry Reams||Direct-to-video|
|Sins of the Night||Les|
|Deadly Rivals||Agent Peterson|
|Amityville: A New Generation||Pauli||Direct-to-video|
|Mind Twister||Frank Webb|
|Se7en||District Attorney Martin Talbot|
|Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored||Cleve|
|Theodore Rex||Commissioner Lynch|
|1997||George of the Jungle||Kwame|
|2000||Shaft||Uncle John Shaft|
|Corky Romano||Howard Shuster|
|2002||Capone's Boys||"Boom-Boom"||Also known as Al's Lads|
|Boat Trip||Felicia's Dad|
|2003||Men Cry in the Dark||Unknown||Direct-to-DVD|
|2004||Short Fuse: A Collection of Explosive Shorts||Unknown||Direct-to-DVD|
|Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon||Tahsi|
|2005||Brick||Assistant Vice President Trueman|
|2006||Wild Seven||Lee Marvin / Cleetus Woods|
|2007||All the Days Before Tomorrow||El Doctor|
|Vegas Vampires||Rick Apping|
|2008||Speed Racer||Ben Burns|
|Veil||Michael Draden||Short film|
|2011||Go Beyond the Lens||"Guess"||Short film|
|2012||The Trial of Ben Barry||Ben Barry||Short film|
|This Bitter Earth||Grady|
|2014||Whatever She Wants||Theodore Wolf||Direct-to-DVD|
|2015||Collar||Reverend Alonzo Sparks|
|2019||What Men Want||Skip|
|Shaft||John Shaft I|
|2020||Haunting of the Mary Celeste||Tulls|
|1972||Parachute to Paradise||Unknown||Television Movie|
|1972–1976||The Hollywood Squares||Himself (Panelist)||Recurring role (4 episodes)|
|1973||Firehouse||Shelly Forsythe||Television Movie|
|1973–1974||Shaft||John Shaft||Series regular (7 episodes)|
|1974||Comedy Roast||Himself||— "Telly Savalas"|
|1976||Freedom Is||Unknown (voice role)||Television Movie|
|1977||Roots||Sam Bennett||Television Miniseries
— "Part IV"
|1980||The Love Boat||Dave Wilbur||2 episodes|
|Miss Universe Pageant||Himself (Judge)||Television Special|
|1981||CHiPs||Sergeant Aikens||— "Sharks"|
|1983||Magnum, P.I.||Peter Jordan||— "Two Birds of a Feather"|
|Masquerade||Willy "Mean Willy" Walters||— "Pilot"|
|Just an Overnight Guest||Matt||Television Short|
|1984||The Baron and the Kid||'Frosty'||Television Movie|
|1985||A.D.||Serpenius||Television Miniseries (5 episodes)|
|Hollywood Beat||Don Julian||— "Double Exposure"|
|1986||The Fifth Missile||Commander Frederick Bryce||Television Movie|
|1986–1987||Outlaws||Isaiah "Ice" McAdams||Series regular (12 episodes)|
|1987||The New Hollywood Squares||Himself (Panelist)||— "03.23.1987"|
|1988||ABC Afterschool Specials||Jason Ruigh||— "Daddy Can't Read"|
|Cadets||Sergeant Matt Gideon||Television Movie|
|Murder, She Wrote||Major Kevin Cooper||— "The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel"|
|1989||A Different World||Clinton Reese||2 episodes
— "Great Expectations"
— "Answered Prayers"
|Amen||Sergeant Burke||2 episodes
— "Thelma and the D.I."
— "Sergeant in Arms"
|Beauty and the Beast||Cleon Manning||Recurring role (3 episodes)
— "Ceremony of Innocence"
— "Though Lovers Be Lost..."
|1989–1991||Generations||Dr. Daniels Reubens||Recurring role (6 episodes)|
|1990||21 Jump Street||Ben Halley||— "La Bizca"|
|MacGyver||R.T. Hines||— "Tough Boys"|
|1990–1996||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Dr. Mumford / Reverend Gordon Sims||2 episodes
— "Clubba Hubba" (1990)
— "Hare Today" (1996)
|1991||The Young Riders||Calvin||— "Kansas"|
|Beverly Hills, 90210||Robinson Ashe Jr.||— "Ashes to Ashes"|
|1991–1994||Roc||Russell Emerson||Recurring role (4 episodes)|
|1992||Hearts Are Wild||Xavier Burns||— "Episode: #1.8"|
|Christmas in Connecticut||Prescotf||Television Movie|
|L.A. Law||Judge Ira Menday||— "Love on the Rox"|
|1992–1994||Hangin' with Mr. Cooper||Sergeant / Chester Cooper||2 episodes
— "Miracle in Oaktown" (1992)
— "Hangin' with Mrs. Cooper" (1994)
|1993||Bonanza: The Return||Jacob Briscoe||Television Movie|
|1994||Black as the Heart||Rodney "Rod"||Television Movie|
|Shadows of Desire||"Dunc"||Television Movie|
|Renegade||Gene Collins||— "Thrill Kill"|
|1995||Bonanza: Under Attack||Jacob||Television Movie|
|The Wayans Bros.||Dr. Saunders||— "ER"|
|Dream On||Dr. Charles||— "Little Orphan Eddie"|
|1996||Touched by an Angel||Murray||— "Rock 'n' Roll Dad"|
|Buddies||Henry Carlisle||Series regular (14 episodes)|
|1997||Any Place But Home||Gil Oberman||Television Movie|
|Profiler||Detective James Henegar||— "Power Corrupts"|
|1997–98||413 Hope St.||Phil Thomas||Series regular (10 episodes)|
|1998||Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman||Jim "Barracuda Jim" Barnes||— "The Fight"|
|1999||Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years||Booker T. Washington||Television Movie|
|Rescue 77||Captain Durfee||Series regular (8 episodes)|
|Linc's||Jake||— "Real Time"|
|2000–2001||Soul Food||Hardy Lester||Recurring role (6 episodes)|
|2001||Resurrection Blvd.||Nate Khane||2 episodes
— "La Gran Pelea"
|2002||Joe and Max||Jack Blackburn||Television Movie|
|2002–2003||As the World Turns||Oliver Travers||Unknown episodes|
|2003||1-800-Missing||Sam Haslett||— "Father Figure"|
— "Breaking Point" (2003)
— "Blood Ties" (2004)
|2004–2005||Desperate Housewives||Mr. Shaw||Recurring role (5 episodes)|
|2005||The Closer||Colonel D.B. Walter||— "Show Yourself"|
|Painkiller Jane||Colonel Watts||Television Movie|
|2006||Blade: The Series||Robert Brooks||— "Sacrifice"|
|Grey's Anatomy||Donald Burke||— "I Am a Tree"|
|Close to Home||Cyrus Cater||— "Prodigal Son"|
|2006–2007||Heroes||Charles Deveaux||Recurring role (6 episodes)|
|2007||Final Approach||Gary Markash||Television Movie|
|Point of Entry||Detective Miles Porter||Television Movie|
|2007–2009||Lincoln Heights||Coleman Bradshaw||Recurring role (3 episodes)|
|2008||Ladies of the House||Stan||Television Movie|
|2009||Knight Rider||Lawrence Rival||— "Day Turns Into Knight"|
|2009–2011||Diary of a Single Mom||Lou Bailey||Recurring role (18 episodes)|
|2010||Meet the Browns||Frank||— "Meet the Anniversary"|
|2011||The Mentalist||Floyd Benton||— "Bloodsport"|
|2012||Private Practice||Raymond McCray||— The Next Episode"|
|2013–2019||Being Mary Jane||Paul Patterson Sr.||Recurring role (33 episodes)|
|2015||Chicago Fire||Wallace Boden Sr.||Recurring role (4 episodes)|
|The Player||Judge Samuel Letts||2 episodes
— "The Norseman"
— "A House Is Not A Home"
|2017–2018||Star||Charles Floyd||Recurring role (5 episodes)|
|2018||Lethal Weapon||Don Bennett||— "A Whole Lotta Trouble"|
|2019–2022||Family Reunion||Grandpa||Recurring role (14 episodes)|
|2022||Cherish the Day||Mandeville "MV" St. James||Main role (Season 2)|
|1998||Akuji the Heartless||Akuji (voice role)|
Awards and nominations
|African-American Film Critics Association||2011||Legacy Award||N/A||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||1972||Most Promising Newcomer – Male||Shaft||Nominated|
|Indie Series Awards||2010||Best Performance by a Supporting Actor||Diary of a Single Mom||Nominated|
|MTV Movie + TV Awards||1994||Lifetime Achievement Award||Shaft (film series)||Won|
|NAACP Image Awards||1971||Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture||Shaft||Nominated|
|1998||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series||413 Hope St.||Nominated|
|Soap Opera Digest Awards||1991||Outstanding Supporting Actor: Daytime||Generations||Nominated|
In Spanish: Richard Roundtree para niños
Richard Roundtree Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.