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Richard Roundtree in Shaft, 1971.

Richard Roundtree in Shaft, 1971.

Richard Roundtree's iconic career began while attending Southern Illinois University where he was on a football scholarship. He was discovered by and signed with Johnson Publications to model in their Ebony Fashion Fair. Rather than returning to school, Roundtree went back to his home state of New York to begin acting lessons. He soon became a member of New York's acclaimed Negro Ensemble Company. A succession of Off-Broadway roles resulted in his starring in The Great White Hope (1970). Roundtree's life would change forever when he was cast in the role of private detective John Shaft in the legendary Shaft movie franchise, directed by Gordon Parks. This film thrust him into the international spotlight, making him a household name and one of Hollywood's hottest young actors. In the over 100 film and television projects that followed he had the opportunity to share the screen with many of Hollywood's most legendary actors. On television, he won an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Series, and a Peabody Award for his narration of the PBS documentary The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (2002).

"I constantly deal with being called Shaft, and it never ceases to blow me away with the impact that character had on my life and my fans’ lives." Richard Roundtree



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