Roundtree in February 2007
July 9, 1942 |
New Rochelle, New York, U.S.
Richard Roundtree (born July 9, 1942) is an American actor. He has been called "the first black action hero" for his portrayal of private detective John Shaft in the 1971 film, Shaft, and its sequels, Shaft's Big Score (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973).
Born in New Rochelle, New York, Richard Roundtree graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1961 and played for the school's undefeated and nationally ranked football team. He attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Roundtree was diagnosed with the rare disease male breast cancer in 1993 and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Roundtree was a leading man in early 1970s blaxploitation films, his best-known role being Detective John Shaft in the action movie, Shaft (1971) and in its sequels, Shaft's Big Score (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973). Roundtree also appeared opposite Laurence Olivier and Ben Gazzara in Inchon (1981). On television, he played the slave Sam Bennett in the 1977 television series Roots and Dr. Daniel Reubens on Generations from 1989 to 1991. Before becoming an actor, he was a football player and a model. He played another private detective in 1984's City Heat opposite Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. Although Roundtree worked throughout the 1990s, many of his films were not well-received, but he found success elsewhere in stage plays. 
During that period, however, he reemerged on the small screen as a cultural icon. On September 19, 1991, Roundtree appeared in an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 with Vivica A. Fox. The episode was "Ashes to Ashes", Roundtree playing Robinson Ashe Jr. Roundtree appeared in David Fincher's critically acclaimed 1995 movie Seven, and in the 2000 Shaft again as John Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson playing the title character, the original Shaft's nephew. Roundtree guest-starred in several episodes of the first season of Desperate Housewives as an amoral private detective. He also appeared in 1997's George of the Jungle and played a high-school vice-principal in the 2005 movie, Brick. His voice was utilized as the title character in the hit PlayStation game Akuji the Heartless, where Akuji must battle his way out of the depths of hell at the bidding of the Baron.
In 1997-98, Roundtree had a leading role as Phil Thomas in the short-lived Fox ensemble drama, 413 Hope St.. He portrayed Booker T. Washington in the 1999 television movie Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years. Then in 1999-2000, he costarred with Dick Van Patten, Richard Anderson, Deborah Winters, and Hugh O'Brian in the Warren Chaney miniseries, Y2K - World in Crisis.
Since 2000, Roundtree has appeared in the television series The Closer as Colonel D.B. Walter U.S.M.C. (retired), the father of a sniper, and in Heroes as Simone's terminally ill father, Charles Deveaux. Next, Roundtree appeared as Eddie's father-in-law in episodes of Lincoln Heights. Most recently, Roundtree had a supporting role in the 2008 Speed Racer film as a racer-turned-commentator who is an icon and hero to Speed. He also appeared in the two-parter in Season 1 of the Second Generation of Knight Rider as the father of FBI Agent Carrie Ravai. Co-starring as the father of the eponymous "Being Mary Jane" aired on BET, since 2013