Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Richard Roundtree, ‘Shaft’ Star, Dies at 81

Richard Roundtree, ‘Shaft’ Star, Dies at 81

Richard Roundtree, the actor behind the iconic “Johh Shaft” character, has passed. He was 81 years old. Roundtree died on October 24th after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, per Deadline. His family was at his bedside at the time of his death.

Roundtree portrayed “John Shaft” in 5 different films—including the original Shaft film in 1971. During his acting career, which spanned over 6 decades, he would also star in films such as George of the Jungle and Se7en.

Richard Roundtree Loved Playing Shaft in Various Films and Reboots

Roundtree was particularly proud, and comfortable, in his role as “John Shaft.” In an interview with WBUR back in 2019, Roundtree stated that returning to the role of “Shaft” was “like riding a bike” and compared it to a “comfortable pair of shoes.”

He also spoke about the weight that he felt playing a character as influential and beloved as “John Shaft.”

“I used to look at it as a double-edged sword. But I’ve had so many people from all over the country — and all over the world actually — come up and say what that film meant to them back in ’71. It’s heavy,” Roundtree recalled.

“And I’m appreciative of people speaking to me and sharing that with me. The other side of it is I got typecast for quite some time, and then I’ve gone out of my way to establish a different side of my acting, even going to playing the first interracial gay couple married on television.”

Roundtree Had Battled With Cancer Before

Back in 1993, Roundtree was diagnosed with breast cancer. In his interview with WBUR, he spoke about how he felt like he needed to speak up about his situation and bring awareness.

“I didn’t have a vote, I had to speak about it. Breast cancer is not gender specific,” said Roundtree. “And men have this cavalier attitude about health issues. And I got such positive feedback because I spoke out about it…”