The US actor Louis Gossett Jr., who in 1983 was the first black person to receive an Oscar for best supporting male role, is dead. Gossett died at the age of 87, reported US media such as CNN and NBC, citing a statement from his family . “It is with deep regret that we confirm that our father died this morning,” the media quoted the statement as saying.

“We would like to thank everyone for their condolences. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.” The New York Times also reported on Gossett’s death and cited his cousin. A request from the German Press Agency to the actor’s management initially remained unanswered. Gossett worked until the end; he was only seen in the film “The Color Purple” last year.

Many colleagues paid tribute to the deceased. We have lost a “true legend,” wrote US actor Colman Domingo on Instagram. He praised him as a pioneer for black actors in the film business. In his last film, the musical adaptation “The Color Purple” (2023), Gossett played the father of Domingo’s character.

Coleman Domingo via Instagram

Oscar winner Viola Davis (58, “Fences”) praised Gossett for his unforgettable work and as an “example of excellence”. He will continue to inspire people, wrote Davis on Instagram. Singer Dionne Warwick (83) told the Hollywood Reporter that Gossett should play the role of her grandfather in a planned biopic about her life. She will miss her friend.

Before Gossett, only two blacks had won the acting Oscar: Hattie McDaniel (1940) for best supporting actress in “Gone with the Wind” and Sidney Poitier as the leading actor in “Lilies of the Field” (1964). In April 1983, at the age of 46, Gossett became the first black supporting actor to accept the gold-plated trophy for his role in the film “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

In it he played a frightening US Navy instructor who puts his students through brutal drills. The young Richard Gere celebrated his breakthrough as the leading actor in the film. In his short speech on the Oscar stage, Gossett thanked his long-time acting agent and his parents. He didn’t talk about the disadvantages faced by black actors in Hollywood.

Politically involved with a foundation

He later became more explicit, joining in the storm of outrage over the non-nomination of black talent and pleading for diversity. “You don’t have to see black or Latino, we’re all part of one family,” said Gossett, who has been married three times and has two children. The actor campaigned against discrimination and racism with a foundation.

The New York native had already been on the theater stage at the age of 17. He made his first film appearance in 1961 alongside Sidney Poitier in the drama “A Spot in the Sun”. His television role as a slave in the Southern series “Roots” (1977) earned him an Emmy trophy.

Gossett didn’t allow himself to be limited to social dramas: in the adventure film “The Deep” with Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte he played a gangster, and in Wolfgang Petersen’s science fiction film “Enemy Mine – Beloved Enemy” he played an extraterrestrial creature in the action series “The Steel Eagle” he was seen as a fighter pilot.