Louis Gossett Jr.

Source: Paramount Pictures

Louis Gossett Jr.

Louis Gossett Jr., who became the first black man to win a supporting actor Oscar for his memorable role as the drill sergeant in An Officer And A Gentleman, has died. He was 87.

“It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning,” the family shared in a statement after the actor passed away in Santa Monica. “We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Gossett Jr. was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 27, 1936. He was a promising sportsman until an injury derailed his ambitions and, with the encouragement of an English teacher, landed a Broadway role in the 1953 production of Take A Giant Step despite no official training at that stage in his career.

He attended NYU to study drama and from the 1950s onwards started to get work in television and eventually film.

Gossett Jr.’s imposing 6ft 4in frame added to his natural ability and he stood out.

He won an Emmy in 1978 for playing Fiddler in the TV smash Roots (and earned multiple nominations throughout his career) and four years later took on the role in An Officer And A Gentleman as Sgt. Emil Foley, the tough drill instructor who instils discipline in Gere’s aspiring Navy pilot Zack Mayo.

Throughout a busy career his credits included Egyptian lead Anwar Sadat in Sadat, Enemy Mine, Jaws 3, and more recently HBO’s Watchmen series, and The Color Purple in 2023. His voice will be heard next month in John Krasinski’s family fantasy IF distirbuted by Paramount.

Gossett Jr. established the Eracism Foundation in 2006 to set up diversity programmes with the goal of highlighting and eradicating racism.

No reason was given for the death. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010.

Gossett Jr was married three times and is survived by his sons Satie and Sharron.