Richard Roundtree

Richard Roundtree is an actor and former model from the United States. For his performance of private detective John Shaft in the 1971 film Shaft and its four sequels, produced between 1972 and 2019, Roundtree is known as "the first black action hero." Roundtree was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year - Actor in 1972 for his work in the original picture.

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Early Life

On July 9, 1942, Roundtree was born in New Rochelle, New York, to John and Kathryn Roundtree. He graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1961. Roundtree was a member of the undefeated and nationally rated football squad at his high school. Roundtree went to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, after high school. In 1963, Roundtree left out of college to pursue his career.


Around 1963, Roundtree began his professional career. Eunice W. Johnson scouted Roundtree, and she began modeling in the Ebony Fashion Fair. After his modeling success at the Fashion Fair, Roundtree began modeling for Johnson Products' Duke hair grease and Salem cigarettes. Roundtree joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967. His first performance with the company was in the production of The Great White Hope, where he played boxing icon, Jack Johnson. Roundtree was a leading actor in early 1970s blaxploitation films, with his most well-known portrayal as investigator John Shaft in Shaft (1971) and its sequels, Shaft's Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973). Inchon, Roundtree starred alongside Laurence Olivier and Ben Gazzara (1981). From 1989 to 1991, he appeared on television as Dr. Daniel Reubens on Generations and as slave Sam Bennett in the 1977 television series Roots. In 1984's City Heat, he starred with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds as another private detective. Even though Roundtree worked throughout the 1990s, several of his films were critically panned, he found success with stage plays.

During that time, however, he resurfaced as a cultural icon on television. Roundtree and Vivica A. Fox co-starred on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 on September 19, 1991. Roundtree played Robinson Ashe Jr. in the episode "Ashes to Ashes." Roundtree reprised his role as John Shaft in David Fincher's critically praised 1995 film Seven and in Samuel L. Jackson's 2000 film Shaft, in which he played the nephew of the original Shaft. Roundtree appeared as an amoral private detective in multiple episodes of the first season of Desperate Housewives. He also appeared in the 1997 film George of the Jungle and the 2005 film Brick, in which he played a high school vice-principal. His voice was used as the title character in the blockbuster PlayStation game Akuji the Heartless, in which Akuji must fight his way out of hell under the Baron's command.

Roundtree had a starring role as Phil Thomas in the Fox ensemble drama 413 Hope St. from 1997 to 1998. In the 1999 television film Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, he played Booker T. Washington.

Since 2005, Roundtree has played the father of a sniper, Colonel D. B. Walter, U.S.M.C. (retired), on the television series The Closer, and Simone's terminally sick father, Charles Deveaux, on Heroes. Then, in episodes of Lincoln Heights, Roundtree played Eddie's father-in-law. Roundtree most recently appeared in the 2008 film Speed Racer as a racer-turned-commentator who is an icon and hero to Speed. He also co-starred as the father of F.B.I. Agent Carrie Ravai in the two-parter Knight Rider (2008), and he presently co-stars as the father of the lead character on Being Mary Jane, which has been shown on B.E.T. since 2013.

Roundtree appeared in the comedy What Men Want in 2019 and reprised his role as John Shaft in Shaft, a sequel to the 2000 film, opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Jessie Usher, who play John Shaft II and III, respectively. This time, Roundtree's role was described as Jackson's father, even though in the 2000 film, Roundtree pretended to be Jackson's Shaft's uncle.

Personal Life

Roundtree has five children and has been married twice. His first marriage was to Mary Jane Grant, whom he married on November 27, 1963. Before divorcing in December 1973, Roundtree and Grant had two children. In September 1980, he married Karen M. Ciernia, with whom he had three children.

In 1998, Roundtree and Ciernia divorced. In 1993, Roundtree was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy as well as chemotherapy.

Quick Facts
Birth Date: 9 Jul, 1942
Age: 77 yrs
Citizenship: United States of America
Birth Place: New Rochelle
Education: Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Gender: Male
Description: American actor
Net Worth 2021: 2 million
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Last Modified: Feb 19 2023
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