Louis Gossett Jr. ranks as one of the most respected African-American actors of stage, screen, and television. Tall, lanky, and bald-pated, Gossett was a basketball player in high school until a leg injury benched him and his interest turned toward acting. In 1953, at the age of 17, Gossett made his Broadway debut in Take a Giant Step, and ended up with a Donaldson Award for the year's best newcomer. Though working steadily on stage and television, Gossett was still interested in basketball. The New York Knicks drafted him out of college in 1958 and he played with them briefly before returning to performing.
In 1961, Gossett reprised on film the role he played in the theatrical production of A Raisin in the Sun. It was a well-regarded beginning, and he continued to appear on stage and television, and beginning in 1967, the occasional feature film or television movie. During this early period, he also occasionally sang in nightclubs. Gossett did not become a bona fide star until his Emmy-winning performance in the landmark television miniseries Roots (1977). His career picked up considerably after that. In 1982, Gossett earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a deceptively heartless drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman. That same year, he also starred in another television series as the wise mentor to an alien prince in The Powers of Matthew Star (1982-1983). After the success of An Officer and a Gentleman, Gossett reprised his roll as the tough sergeant, albeit using different character names, in several films, including the Iron Eagle series, The Punisher (1989), and others. But though he makes an excellent rough guy, Gossett has showed a willingness to let his softer side show through in such made-for-TV movies as Sudie and Simpson (1990).