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Louis Gossett Jr. has a flair for projecting quiet authority and has scored well personally in a string of diverse and occasionally challenging roles. The aspiring actor caught a break at his first Broadway audition for Take A Giant Step (1953), where, beating out 400 other candidates, the then 16-year-old landed the lead.
His acting career soon flourished and his work in the stage and film versions of the groundbreaking drama about African-American family life in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1961) proved a watershed. This led to numerous appearances on network series in the 1960s and 70s culminating in 1977, when he picked up an Emmy for his eloquent portrayal of Fiddler in the landmark ABC miniseries Roots.
Meanwhile, his big screen reputation grew with critically acclaimed work in such comedies as The Landlord (1970) The Skin Game (1971) with James Garner, Travels with My Aunt (1972) and the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning drama The River Niger (1975). A riveting performance as a drug-dealing cutthroat stalking Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in The Deep (1977) catapulted him to wider popularity, but the tough by-the-book drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) won him a Best Supporting Oscar that consolidated his place in the Hollywood hierarchy.