A friend mentioned this Hollywood great to me, and I first thought, "why does that name sound familiar?" It turns out that Richard Roundtree is Shaft ("shut your mouth!").
Roundtree was born on 9 July 1942 in New Rochelle, New York. Before
becoming an actor, Richard played football and was a model. He was a
member of New Rochelle High School's nationally-ranked 1960 season
football team. He attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Maybe he went there to play football? My sources don't say that he did,
but why else would a kid from New York come to Illinois? Anyway, after
college, Richard did some modeling and had a minor role as part of an
interracial couple in 1970's What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?
And then Richard was selected to portray Detective John Shaft (FYI: the movie Shaft is based on a book of the same name. Check it out!). Shaft came out in 1971 and was a huge hit. According to the always reliable Wikipedia, the movie helped save MGM from bankruptcy and "spawned several years of 'blaxploitation' action films." In addition, the National Film Registry has selected Shaft for preservation as being culturally significant.
Richard played John Shaft again in two sequels (Shaft's Big Score and Shaft in Africa) and in a short-lived TV series, also called Shaft.
Speaking of television, Richard has been on a lot of shows! Often it's
just a small role, but he has cropped up in a lot of places.
One of his big roles was as the slave Sam Bennett in Roots. He also had large roles in the mini-series A.D. and series Outlaws, which ran for one season in 1986-87. He also played Dave Chapelle's father in the series Buddies, which lasted for 13 episodes in 1996. He was also a regular on Diary of a Single Mom, which lasted three seasons from 2009-2011. Smaller roles include, but are not limited to:
-two episodes of The Love Boat
-an episode of CHiPS
-an episode of Murder, She Wrote
-an episode of 21 Jump Street
-an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210
-an episode of L.A. Law
-an episode of Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
-an episode of Touched by an Angel
-two episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
-an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
-five episodes of Desperate Housewives
-five episodes of Heroes
-an episode of Grey's Anatomy
-and an episode of The Mentalist.
That's some range! The people watching Touched by an Angel are probably not the same people checking out Grey's Anatomy. It's good to know Richard is reaching them both.
As far as movies go, Richard has had some smaller parts in more recent films such as the comedy George of the Jungle and the thriller Se7en.
1993, Richard was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double
mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments. He made a full recovery because
he is still alive today.