Without question Louis Gossett Jr. is one of the true mega stars of Hollywood. Born to Hellen Rebecca Gossett and Louis Gossett Sr. on May 27, 1936 his first stage appearance happened a mere 17 years later when a sports injury gave him the opportunity to focus on an acting class which led him to a role in his High School production of “You Can’t Take it With You.” After high school Lou Gossett Jr. entered New York University where he turned down an athletic scholarship to focus on theatre. However before he even began his NYU studies Lou, with the encouragement of his high school drama teacher he auditioned for and was cast in the role of Spencer Scott in Broadway’s highly acclaimed “Take a Giant Step.” He was still in High School and already a Broadway star. But this was just the beginning of Louis Gossett Junior’s amazing career.
Just a few years later Lou stepped on a Broadway stage yet again this time in “A Raisin in the Sun.” That led to him making his movie debut in Sidney Poitier’s screen version of the same name. Lou played the role of George Murchison in that classic film. If there had ever been any doubt in Lou’s mind about a career in acting it was now resolved.
Keep in mind that as Louis Gossett Jr. was launching his acting career the magnificent Sammy Davis Jr. was a headliner at The Frontier Casino in Las Vegas, but he was required (as were all black performers in the 1950s) to lodge in a rooming house on the west side of the city, instead of in the hotels as his white colleagues did. No dressing rooms were provided for black performers, and they had to wait outside by the swimming pool between acts. Davis and other black artists could entertain, but could not stay at the hotels where they performed, gamble in the casinos, or dine or drink in the hotel restaurants and bars. Davis later refused to work at places which practiced racial segregation. Both great entertainers confronted their adversities and grew well beyond them but the experience left some memories. For Lou it also led to him establishing a foundation which will be discussed later.
Louis Gossett Jr. continued to develop his film career but also worked in television. In 1958 he appeared as James Goodwin in “The Big Story.” And in 1962 as William Taylor in “The Nurses,” and in 1967 and again in 1968 he appeared as “Fulah Hemera in “Cowboy in Africa.” He appeared in “The Mod Squad” in 1968, 1969 and 1972 and as Hurricane Smith in “The Bill Cosby Show” in 1970. Over his career Lou made over 100 television appearances but without question his appearance in the1977 ABC television miniseries “Roots” as Fiddler etched Louis Gossett Jr. permanently into the conscious of the American public. It also earned him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor. But the best was yet to come for Lou.
In the next installment I will deal with his several starring film roles including his unforgettable role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” We will also look at what is next for Louis Gossett Jr., his passionate fight against lingering racism and his latest personal obstacle his battle with prostate cancer over which he seems to have yet again triumphed. Louis Gossett Jr. is far more than a film and television star, he is a true fighter and a true winner and as such a splendid role model for all who wish to maximize their lives.
So please do rejoin me for the second chapter in this compelling story. Be sure not to miss it, so do take a few seconds to subscribe to this Examiner and it is free.