Richard Roundtree, star of “Shaft,” “Roots” and “Generations,” has died at age 81.

TheWrap has learned that the actor passed away after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Roundtree’s family was at his side when he died. His agency Artists & Partners confirmed his death with a statement.

“Artists & Representatives Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree. His groundbreaking career changed the face of entertainment around the globe and his lasting legacy will be felt for generations to come. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

The actor starred in a number of important films, including 1971’s Shaft and its two follow-ups, 1972’s Shaft’s Big Score! and 1973’s “Shaft in Africa.” Roundtree was nominated for New Star of the Year at the Golden Globes after the first film.

Roundtree also appeared in “Inchon” and the 1984 Clint Eastwood film “City Heat.” His television appearances included the role of Sam Bennett in the popular miniseries Roots and Dr. Daniel Reubens in “Generations”.

Upon its release in January 1977, “Roots” immediately had a strong impact on American audiences. Approximately 100 million people tuned in for the series’ 8th and final episode.

Of course, it is his debut film role in Shaft that most viewers will forever associate with the actor. As he once said, the role of this character would have a huge impact on the shape of his career and his fans around the world. He explained: “I constantly struggle with being called Shaft, and I’m always impressed by the impact this character has had on my life and the lives of my fans.”

As the first black private investigator ever to appear on the big screen, Roundtree became an inspiration to many seemingly overnight. The film and its subsequent sequels were so popular (and profitable) that MGM wanted to make four more, but Roundtree refused.

He later explained to Roger Ebert: “I want each role to be completely different from the last as much as possible. If you do the same thing too many times, it’s the only thing you can do.”

While Roundtree never quite managed to shake the aura of Shaft, he moved on to other projects he enjoyed. He was proud of 1975’s Man Friday, which starred Peter O’Toole. Roundtree told Ebert, “I thought maybe the pendulum was swinging away from violence and toward something that could bring joy to people. “Something with some laughs, like ‘Man Friday,’ has some laughs along with everything else.” ]

“It’s a role that I’m completely happy with, and I couldn’t always say that,” he added.

About the time he filmed City Heat, the actor told Uproxx: “You know what I take away from this movie? I have to see it The Clint Eastwood. We shot up in Riverside, at the Boxing Arena. And Richard, Richard… the director, Richard Benjamin.”

Roundtree’s television career also included several years on the daytime series “Generations” as Dr. Daniel Reubens and also in the second season of “Beverly Hills: 90210”. But in 2000, “Shaft” came along and Roundtree returned to star alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Chrisitan Bale, Busta Rhymes and Jeffrey Wright.

He was also part of the cast of the 2019 film Shaft and admitted that it was his favorite out of the five films. Roundtree said: “This project is the one I’m most proud of because it covers so much area.” It’s funny, it surpasses all previous ones and [offers] three generations of this figure.”

He added: “It’s wonderful to see my grandson grow from the nerd he originally was to owning his last name.” For me, it’s been a joy to be a part of it and I’m glad that I was there.” The 2019 film spanned three generations: Roundtree’s Shaft, Jackson’s Shaft and Jessie T. Usher’s John “JJ” Shaft, Jr.

Roundtree joined the cast of Ava Duvernary’s Cherish the Day in 2021. The anthology series tells the relationship story of a couple. Each episode of the show is a day in the life of the couple. Roundtree was cast as Mandeville “MV” St. James, the widowed father of Joy Bryant’s Sunday St. James. Its last episode was released in November 2022.

That same year, Roundtree also starred opposite Jane Fonda in Moving On. He admitted he was surprised to learn that both fathers were “not that communicative,” saying, “So we had a lot in common, which I found incredible.” Those thoughts never crossed my mind when I think of Jane Fonda.”

Deadline first reported the news.

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