Gossett, Louis, Jr.

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Gossett, Louis, Jr.

May 27, 1936

Actor Louis Gossett Jr. was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Louis Sr., a porter, and Hattie Gossett, a maid. He was raised in Bath Beach, an ethnically mixed neighborhood of Jewish, Italian, and African-American residents.

In high school Gossett was encouraged by his English teacher to pursue acting. In 1953 he captured a role in the Broadway play Take a Giant Step and won the Donaldson Award as best newcomer of the year for his performance. He helped support the family with his earnings from acting, allowing his mother to give up her work as a maid.

From 1956 to 1958 Gossett attended New York University on an athletic and drama scholarship. Though invited to try out for the New York Knicks basketball team, he instead chose to accept the part of George Murchison in the 1959 Broadway premiere of A Raisin in the Sun, a role he assumed in the film version in 1961.

Gossett's most important roles include "Fiddler" in the television miniseries Roots (1977) and Sergeant Foley in the film An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), a part that was not written expressly for a black actor. When he received an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Sergeant Foley, he became only the third black actor ever to be so honored, after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel.

Gossett has starred in two short-lived television series, The Powers of Matthew Star (1982) and Gidion Oliver (1989). In the 1980s and early 1990s Gossett played a hard-nosed military officer, modeled on the Sergeant Foley character, in the films Iron Eagles (1986), Iron Eagles II (1988), and Aces: Iron Eagles III (1992). In 1992 Gossett starred as an out-of-shape boxer who revives his career in the film Diggstown. He subsequently appeared in the television movies Captive Heart: The James Mink Story (1996), In His Father's Shoes (1997), Inside (1997), and The Inspectors (1998). In the new century Gossett continued to be in demand for television movies, with roles in at least ten through 2005, including The Inspectors II: A Shred of Evidence (2000), For Love of Olivia (2001), Jasper, Texas (2003), and Lackawanna Blues (2005). He also starred in the television series Resurrection Blvd.

See also Film in the United States, Contemporary; McDaniel, Hattie; Poitier, Sidney; Television


Bogle, Donald. Blacks in American Film and Television: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1988.

"Louis Gossett, Jr." Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 7. Detroit, Mich: Gale, 1994.

elizabeth v. foley (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005