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Richard Roundtree (born July 9, 1942) is an American actor. He has been called "the first black action hero"[1] for his portrayal of private detective John Shaft in the 1971 film Shaft, and its sequels, Shaft's Big Score (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973), along with a cameo appearance as the character in the 2000 film Shaft, which starred Samuel L. Jackson as the nephew of the original John Shaft. For his performance in Shaft, Roundtree was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor.

Richard Roundtree
Richard Roundtree in Baltimore.jpg
Born (1942-07-09) July 9, 1942 (age 76)
Years active1970–present
Spouse(s)(1) Mary Jane Grant (m. 1967-1973, divorced)
(2) Karen M. Ciernia


Personal lifeEdit

Born in New Rochelle, New York, Roundtree graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1961, and played for the school's undefeated and nationally ranked football team. He attended Southern Illinois.[2] Roundtree was diagnosed with the rare disease male breast cancer in 1993 and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.[3]


Roundtree in 1973

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. Before becoming an actor, he was a football player and a model. 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.[4][5]

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, 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.

Roundtree played John Shaft in the CBS-TV television series of the same name from 1973 to 1974

In 1997-98, 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.

Since 2005, Roundtree has 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.[a] Most recently, Roundtree 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 currently co-stars as the father of the lead character on Being Mary Jane, which has aired on BET since 2013.





  1. ^ Tweedle, Sam, "I'm Just Talkin' About Shaft (And We Can Dig It)," Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict, Internet website [1], accessed August 20, 2014.
  2. ^ Richard Roundtree Biography Yahoo! Movies; accessed April 30, 2014.
  3. ^ - Richard Roundtree 'Knows the Score' on cancer;; September 18, 2001; accessed April 30, 2014.
  4. ^ Sewall, Rhonda B., "Actor, icon, survivor: Richard Roundtree appears in 'Men Cry in the Dark'", The Toledo Blade, October 7, 2005.
  5. ^ Ames, Denise, "One on One with Richard Rountree", The Toluca Lake Times and Canyon Crier (CA), March 6, 2014.


  1. ^ In season one, his car is rear-ended. In season two, he contemplates divorce.

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