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Colman Domingo, LeVar Burton, Viola Davis and More Pay Tribute to Louis Gossett Jr.: “You Will Continue to Inspire”

Hollywood is paying tribute to Louis Gossett Jr.

On Friday, Gossett’s family announced that the Officer and a Gentlemen star passed away at the age of 87. The cause of death is unknown, but Gossett announced in 2010 that he had prostate cancer.

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In a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, his family said, “It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning. We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Gossett’s most notable role was in Taylor Hackford’s Officer and a Gentleman (1982) as Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley which he won an Academy Award for in the best supporting actor category. He was the second Black man to win an acting Oscar, following Sidney Poitier in 1964.

After news of his passing, many in Hollywood took to social media to share heartfelt words about the legendary actor, praising his work and mark in the industry.

Colman Domingo, who starred played Gossett’s character’s son in The Color Purple, shared a photograph he captured of his “dad,” writing “Kind beyond measure. Regal. We owe so much to him.”

Fantasia Barrino also remembered the Color Purple star writing, “Louis Gossett Jr. what an Awesome Man you were and the stories you told us, I’ll never ever forget. You left behind so many tokens for us and paved the way for Black Actors and Actresses. You will be missed, but Man did you Live a Blessed Life. #WeLoveYouForever”

LeVar Burton remembered his Roots co-star as “one of the best to ever do it” while sharing a photograph of them on set.

Fellow Roots co-star Leslie Uggams also paid tribute to Gossett in a statement to People that the actor told “the best stories of anybody I ever knew.” She continued, “He was just mesmerizing…He’d just keep us roaring with laughter and just like, ‘I can’t believe this story, this is amazing,’ He was full of joy and mischief.”

Viola Davis remembered Gossett writing, “You were a Lion. A King. Your work will forever be seared in my brain and heart. As a young actor you were our example of excellence. That’s a legacy. Well done sir. What a life!!!! You will continue to inspire. Rest. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

In a statement to THR, Dionne Warwick said, “Another dear one has made his transition.  Lou was set to play the role of my grandfather in the proposed feature film of my life.  I will miss my friend and send heartfelt condolences to his family.”

Taylor Hackford said in a statement to THR, “The role of Master Sargent Foley in “An Officer and A Gentlemen” was written as a white man.  When I visited the Navy Officers Flight Training Center in Pensacola, FLA, I discovered that many of the Drill Instructors there were men of color.  I found it interesting that Black & Brown enlisted men had ‘make-or-break’ control over whether white college graduates would become officers and fighter pilots.  At that moment I changed the casting profile for Sargent Foley and started meeting actors of color.  Lou Gossett came to see me – I knew and admired his stage work.  He told me that he’d served in the US Army as a Ranger, so in addition to being an accomplished actor, he knew military life – I hired him on the spot.  Lou Gossett’s Sargent Foley may have been the first Black character in American cinema to have absolute authority over white characters.  The Academy recognized his consummate performance by voting him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  He definitely deserved it.”

The actor has a role in John Krasinski’s IF, with the film’s Instagram page sharing a message: “Today, we lost a true legend. Louis, thank you for making magic with us.” IF studio Paramount Pictures’ page also shared a post: “Louis Gossett Jr. made cinematic history, shattered barriers, and changed the landscape of film & television forever. A true gentleman.”

Christy Piña contributed to this story.

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