Among his many accomplishments, Louis Gossett Jr. includes writing, producing, and directing. Besides acting, he is an educator, social activist, and author. For his role as Drill Sergeant Emil Foley in "An Officer and a Gentleman," Gossett won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Aside from the Emmy he received for "Roots," he also won the Golden Globe in "The Josephine Baker Story" and the Golden Globe in "An Officer and a Gentleman."
His nominations included seven Primetime Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, one Academy Award, five Images Awards, and two Daytime Emmy Awards. He was also recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1992. In addition to these honors, Gossett has garnered numerous others throughout his career. A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sidney Poitier, was his film debut in 1961. His film credits include "The Deep," "Blue Chips," "Daddy's Little Girls" by Tyler Perry, "Firewalker" by Universal, "Jaws-3D," "Enemy Mine" by Sony, "Iron Eagle" 1-4 by Walt Disney and many others. Besides his numerous other accomplishments, Mr. Gossett has also appeared in multiple television shows, including "Extant," "Madam Secretary," "Boardwalk Empire," "Family Guy," and "ER." He has also written an autobiography that has become a bestseller, entitled "An Actor and a Gentleman." He's recognized for his humanitarian efforts. It was in 2006 that he founded The Lou Gossett Jr. Eracism Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating racism. To live a multicultural and racially inclusive life, the foundation provides tools for young adults. Culture, historical enrichment, education, and anti-violence initiatives are emphasized in the programs. The honor of interviewing Mr. Gosset was a great privilege. We discussed the following topics.
Good afternoon Mr. Gossett; I love your shirt. Thank you. I'm wearing this shirt to bring awareness to my foundation, The Lou Gossett Jr. Eracism Foundation.
That is awesome! I would love to hear more about your foundation as I know it is near and dear to your heart, but before we talk about your foundation, I want to talk about it and how you became the magnificent man you are today. You got it.
Awesome! I am honored to speak with you today. What a blessing it is to be able to interview you. I have watched and enjoyed many of your films throughout my life, and from my perspective, you are one of the greatest actors ever. Thank you for your creative contribution to the world. Thank you, that touches me.
Awe, thank you. So, on May 27th, 1936, “The Queen Mary” departed from Southampton, England, and on her mated journey. Meanwhile, while history was being made across the seas, a beautiful baby boy was born, and his name was Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. Little did anyone know that this beautiful baby boy would one day be the first black man to receive an (Oscar) Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Officer and a Gentleman.”
And little did they know that he would not only grow up to be nominated numerous times and win numerous awards, but also inspire many people for years to come. Today, the world has been blessed with a talent that will forever be remembered. Mr. Gossett, thank you. I'm very touched. Thank you very much.
Thank you for your kind words. Mr. Gossett, may I respectfully ask where you currently live? I live in Georgia, the world's number-one movie capital. The entire area was also used for most of the filming of Black Panther. The studio where Black Panther was filmed was previously called "Pinewood Atlanta Studios" but has been rebranded and is now called "Trilith." “Tyler Perry Studios” is also here, so Atlanta has become the target location.
I've been here quite a few years now. I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Atlanta. I had a lot of friends in Atlanta, Andrew Young, and people like that. I belong to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his first sermon. During that time, there was only one hotel we could be at and one church we went to. So, Dr. King and I became friends early on.
I understand that the Hyatt Regency Atlanta hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 1967 as one of Atlanta's first hotels to welcome Black travelers. King said the Hyatt was a "Hotel of Hope." What a noble history to reflect upon. To be surrounded by so many people who impacted our world in such an influential manner must have been a wonderful feeling. I'm so glad I could see and grow up with people such as Andrew Young, Julian Barnes, and people like that. They're looking at me as if they're a part of history, but I am looking at them as if we are all a part of history.
So, now, it's our turn, and it's exciting to see young people such as yourself excited to talk to us and learn about how we used to do things back in the good old days. And, hopefully, for what it's worth, you will apply that knowledge to benefit us all in the long run.
Yes, absolutely; Sadly, the wisdom of older adults is often shunned and ignored in today's world by many young people. Our world has undergone a significant shift. Many of our young people today try to figure things out on their own instead of seeking Godly wisdom, and gaining Godly wisdom requires listening and applying the knowledge they learned from their elders. The value of speaking with those who have already been where they are trying to go can't be overstated.
I pray that our youth will humble their hearts and allow themselves to become life students, learning from those who have traveled the same path and warning them of the dangers they may encounter. You said it well. Tell me, Mr. Gossett, what is your daily routine? Our daily routine includes stretching and meditation. Because I' ’m now in my 80's, I cannot take for granted that I'm still here. So, I try to do those things that keep me on the planet and that are relevant. In my research, I've learned that those rules come from a long time ago, almost during African tribal slavery. They are African tribal traditions.
In African tribal tradition, certain things were expected of you at certain ages for the benefit of the whole tribe. So right now, I'm an elder. You're talking to an elder. For what it's worth, I'll give you my answers, let them slide into your mind and heart, and move on to the next. That's the energy that keeps us here.
Mr. Gossett, thank you for sharing your daily routine and some historical information about African practices. And, speaking of history, In the 1930s, growing up was hard for many black people. Due to my age, I am not qualified to speak about what it was like growing up during that period of American history. Nevertheless, I am grateful that you are here so that those who have little knowledge of history may benefit from the experiences you have had. So, what was life like for little Lou Gossett Jr. growing up? Well, life is very special for me. I was born in Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, and I grew up with people who ran from Adolf Hitler, the Jewish people, the intellectual cream of the crop of Europe. They came to New York under a board of education project of Dr. William Jansen, the New York City Schools Chancellor.
My former Broadway producer/ film director moved from Ellis Island to Brooklyn, NY, where he was my English teacher. I grew up with their children. I didn't know anything about racism because they were running from Hitler. With their children, we played basketball, Batman, Superman, and Captain Marvel.
One day when I was maybe 12 years old, I played “Superman,” and I played a great “Superman.” Well, one morning, when I woke up and looked in the mirror, I realized I did not look like the Superman I saw on television. So, my friend Stanley said, “What's the matter with you today?” I said, “Well, I just don't look like Superman. He doesn't have my color or my hair.” He said, “Forget about all that; you're Superman today.” So things that happened to the average African American child back then did not happen to me.
I was even president in both Junior and Senior high school. Growing up with world-famous people, I dodged the bullet until 1966. The first innocent I had was in California.
Thank you for sharing that fantastic piece of history with me. I've already learned things I never knew, which testify to the importance of learning from our forerunners because there's so much we need to learn about life and history. Learning from our elders will solve the knowledge gap we have within us. My interest in your journey has been piqued by what I've heard thus far. How did you get involved in acting, and what initially sparked your interest, Mr. Gossett? Well, it started when I was the President of my Abraham Lincoln High School senior class. My English teacher was a former Broadway director, Gustav Bloomberg (Gus Bloom), a professional man.
Until 17, I'd never seen a Broadway play. One day, my English teacher, who reads trades, approached me and said, "Hey, Louie. "I know you have never acted before, but they are searching for a young actor to portray the lead character, a kid, in a Broadway production, “You Can't Take it With You.” He continued, "It's a good story, and if no one is available for the role, they will shut it down. Ask your mother to bring you down on Sunday."
So, I did. I went to "The Lyceum Theatre," a Broadway theater in the Theater District of Midtown Manhattan in New York City. The theatre was empty when I arrived, with one light bulb on the stage, as were all Broadway shows. Suddenly, I heard giggling, and my feelings were hurt, thinking they were laughing at me. So, I headed back towards the subway. As I began to leave, I heard a man say, "Stop; I was the one who was laughing." That man was Louis Peterson," the guy that wrote the play the autobiography.
He explained why he was excited to see “himself” walking on the stage. He talked me into coming back, and that's how I got my first start in show business. 7 1/2 months later, everything came into being.
Thanks for sharing that inspiring story of how you were introduced to the world of acting. In retrospect, did it come naturally to you, or did you find it challenging? Some things were challenging because I didn't want to embarrass myself or show people what I felt inside. But they finally talked me into it. I did it, and look what happened. Now I can't "not" do it. (laughs)
Yes, absolutely, and we are so blessed that you heeded the call. This is outstanding! You played George Murchison in "A Raisin In The Sun" on Broadway in 1959. In 1961, you debuted on the big screen in the motion picture adaptation of "A Raisin in the Sun." Directed by Daniel Petrie, it starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Roy Glenn, and yourself. It was a great cast that included some of the greatest actors, including you! It was indeed a history-making moment! Yes. In 1959, we opened on Broadway, and in 1961, the movie came out.
I was drafted into the New York Knickerbockers in 1959, but there was no money. The highest paid was only making around $127,000 a year. So, I got a call from Lorraine Hansberry. Because she wasn't sure, who to cast in which part, she called both Ivan Nathaniel Dixon III and me. So, after we both read the script, she cast me as George Murchison.
The play lasted 1 ½ years. In that year and a half, I got to see some of my heroes, Sidney Portier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Lonne Elder III, John Fielder, Ed Hall, Robert Hooks, and Glynn Turman. We crossed paths with all these great actors. I'm privileged to know all these people. It goes into your skin.
The reverence we have for this art we call acting. It comes out of Europe. That’s where it started. So, my recommendation to young folks who are interested in acting, get it under their skin and see how it feels. If it feels good, then go for it.
Awesome! What an honor! I would have loved to have been in that setting with all of you in one room, just conversing, laughing, and talking between rehearsals. So much incredible history in one room. Wow! I love this! Mr. Gossett, out of all the roles you said yes to, were there any you regretted taking? I don't have too many regrettable roles. Still, after being on Broadway with some of my favorite actors, I wound up on television in a Western movie played where I played a runaway slave; where they were spitting in my face, and it was hard for me to take. When I brought it up, I was told it was my job, so when I got home, I washed my face and returned to work the next day.
Oh no! I can’t imagine what that must have been like to experience such a thing. That's horrible to hear that you were treated in this way. That makes my heart sad to hear you were treated this way. At the same time, in the late 40s and 50s, I know other people that were whipped by contemporaries.
You, along with so many other trailblazers, have walked through turbulent times. Yet, you have managed to hang in there for the betterment of our generation so that we may benefit from the stripes you had to endure, and for that, not only do I recognize what you have done for us, but am genuinely grateful. Mr. Gossett, could you tell me how your experience in the movie industry has changed over the years? Cecily Tyson, James Earl Jones, and I were all part of that forefront in breaking water. Our journey began with the movie "Roots," and we broke down the walls after that.
It was glorious for us to be together and hug each other, Maya Angelou, Roscoe Lee Brown, Raymond St. Jacques, Billy D, Williams, Godfrey MacArthur Cambridge, Aussie Davis, and Ruby Dee. They were all great actors!
As a result, we became like brick walls for one another. When they were rejected, they would come to us; we would build them back up and encourage them to fight again. In the meantime, we started our theater, and that started attracting attention. Then came "Roots and other things." So, it's always a good thing to be able to express yourself creatively and have the world applaud your efforts and thank you again and again. So, it has nothing to do with your race, but it's about your popularity. Therefore, I'm grateful to see someone of your age asking me questions with respect. I think that’s wonderful.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Mr. Gossett, and your willingness to share so many close and dear memories of your life journey with me. I greatly appreciate your transparency. It's like flipping through the pages of your family photo album and asking yourself, "Who is this, and when did this happen?" This is indeed a moment I will never forget. Speaking of moments, I'll never forget, as a child, I remember watching one of the most memorable television drama series of that time, "Roots." Also, I had the "Roots" album that I enjoyed singing along to. I loved it! You won a Primetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Lead Actor For A Single Appearance In A Drama Or Comedy Series for your exceptional portrayal of "Fiddler" in the perennial ABC television miniseries Roots in 1977. Firstly, congratulations again, and second, what was one of your most remarkable moments on the Roots set? I became good friends with LaVar Burton, and our characters, Kunta Kinte and Fiddler, blended well. My good friend from New York and one of the greatest actors ever, Vic Morrow," and I shared a scene in "Roots" where he told "Kunta Kinte" that his new name would be "Toby," approached me before the taping of our scene. Vic told me, “Lou, I want to apologize in advance.” I said, “I don't know what you're talking about.” He told me that he would have to do the whipping scene fully.
At the time, I didn't know what he meant. So, when I entered the scene and stood there watching Vic and LaVar acting their butts off while Vic was whipping LaVar, I welled up into tears because he did not want to say, Toby. Finally, he gives up and says, "My name is Toby," he collapses, and I'm in shock. I had the last line, and my line was, "What, you care what that white man calls you, Toby? Kunta, Kunta Kinte. That will be your name, and that's who you'll always be." Then, while putting ice water on his wrist, I said, "There's going to be a better day; you understand me? There's going to be another day."
That statement is so true. It’s a statement of hope and unwavering conviction. It was almost like you were back in slavery times but living in the present, knowing that things did change, but at the same time, believing that things would get even better another day. That’s fascinating! In 1982, you became the first black actor to win an Academy Award (Oscar) for your role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman. Again, congratulations. What an achievement and monumental moment. What went through your mind at that moment? I thought I was dreaming. The man I grew up with, who was my agent, Ed Bundy, said, “They said your name.” I didn't believe him. So, I walk up, and there's Superman (Christopher Reeves) and Susan Sarandon. Then I got a hug and kiss from Susan Sarandon and a handshake from Superman on primetime television.
I was in 7th heaven. Although I didn't prepare a speech, I spoke from the top of my head, and it worked. That's the beginning of history.
Yes, I remember seeing the clip of you receiving your Academy Award. I felt so much pride. It felt good to witness you obtain that award, but as an American black woman, it reminded me that anything is possible with God. Good stuff! What a super awesome past! Now, let’s talk future. Have you been working on any TV productions or filmed any new movies? Yes, regarding films, I have a movie coming out, "The Color Purple," the musical with Fantasia and Taraji P. Henson, and it will be out around Labor Day. In addition, I plan to do a podcast, a special documentary about what I've learned in the world over 80 years of my life and how it affected my life. A lot of stuff has happened, so I want to pass on to you, young folks, what I've learned, for what it's worth, and then move on. It seems to be working so. You'll hear about it soon.
I'm so glad to hear that! There is no doubt that we need the wisdom of the wise. The film and podcast will undoubtedly be huge successes, and I'm eager to see them. So, thank you for your wisdom. You can't continue to do the same things and get the same results. Now we're in a place where there is no place for it anymore. God’s been very patient with us. Now it's our turn to put it together. You see it happening in movies and sports, so it’s time for us all to do that.
Coming together in love is so very important. Speaking of love, Mr. Gossett, I hear you are a huge music lover. Tell me about your connection to music. I love music. It comes from the church and has now reached the big screen. It's something to snap your fingers to and identify with, and It's full of emotion and beauty. Some people who come out of the music world give me goosebumps.
It's great to hear that! I love listening to good music also. Can you tell me about the kind of music you enjoy listening to the most? I love listening to jazz music, and my favorite jazz musician is saxophonist Gerald Albright. I also enjoy the music of the Laws family, Eloise Laws, and Ronnie Laws. I enjoy listening to all of them. They’ve got something to say.
Miles Davis's music is one of my favorites. Likewise, he had something to say, like the artists you mentioned. What did you think of his music? Oh, I love Miles Davis; we used to hang out together.
I love it! We were, we were rascals together. (laughs)
That’s hilarious! Please, Mr. Gossett, tell me a great Miles Davis story. He used to hide from Cicely Tyson, and she never forgave me for that. He would pull up in his Maserati, I would get in the car, and we would head off. Occasionally, we would go to the gym or somewhere else and hang out like two teenagers. Miles was quite a man and quite a genius.
Did you get a chance to meet James Brown, and do you have any stories you want to share about him? Yes, I did. Part of my life included the hippy era.
That's cool! I loved James Brown's music. Here's Trivia for you.
Ok, please share. I'm ready. Have you heard of Richy Havens?
No, but I would love to know more about him. Please share with me your story about him. Richy Havens was a well-known singer-songwriter and guitarist during the late '60s. His style combined folk, soul and rhythm, and Blues. If you watched the movie, "Woodstock" you'll see Richy Havens as the first featured performer, the opening act performing a song called "Handsome Jonny."
Ok. Well, I co-wrote that song with Richy. We wrote that song together.
Wow! I didn't know that. That, indeed, is Trivia. You have just taught me something I didn't know. What a blessing to be able to write a historical song that would go on to resonate in the hearts of many people for generations to come. I was in California, and my series had flopped, and we were about to be evicted. That same day, the mailman came with a residual check of $70,000. That's the closest that I've come to being homeless since then.
Wow! God always comes through for His children. That is phenomenal! What a fantastic legacy you are leaving behind. God has truly blessed you with a multitude of gifts. I watched the movie, "Woodstock," but I must re-watch it to see his performance and hear the beautiful song you co-wrote with Richy. I will enjoy listening to his music as I greatly appreciate vintage music. The 60s and 70s have always influenced my love of fashion and music. It just moves me more than anything I see or hear presently. So now we know that you are not only a phenomenal actor but a writer also. Do you play any instruments? Yes. I play guitar. It’s a good companion.
Awesome! Are you thinking about putting a CD out of your own? I was thinking about it. I did when I was younger, so we will have to see what happens—ultimately, God's in charge.
Yes, God will be done in all things. I love that answer. Taking the time to hear from God and get His guidance. I don't want to do anything without His guidance, but to know what He is telling you to do, you must take time, pull away from the noise, get in a quiet place with God, and get instruction. A fast-paced industry is rife with noise. When you're in a calm space, what goes through your mind? I think about what I have done in the past and how I can make up for what was bad to ensure I don't repeat it in the present or the future. And I think about being of selfless service to the young. That's natural. Once that happens, lights come on in your system, and that's good for anybody.
Mr. Gossett, this time with you has been an absolute pleasure! You are a man of class, wisdom, talent, and excellence. Because I value your insight, please share something with our readers that has been passed down to you that you would like to pass down to our younger generation as well. My great-grandmother from Georgia, Bertha Ray, the family's matriarch, had a photograph of me and her in 1953. I was 17, and she was 110. And she says sit where I'm sitting now, and like the woman used to do back then, she used to do snuff. Her snuff was butterscotch-flavored called "Railroad Milk." (Snuff is a smokeless tobacco made of finely ground or shredded tobacco leaves.) So, every now and then, when I got too big for my britches. She’d say, “Come here, boy, let me tell you something. God was here before you got here. He will be here while you’re here and will be here a long time after you’re gone. So, you might as well calm down and let him run things.” So, whenever I let God run things, everything turned out fine, but things didn’t work out when I didn't. That’s a lifetime lesson for me. You’re never going to be stronger than God.
And I, too, will heed the wise words of your great-grandmother, the beautiful Bertha Ray. Thank you so much for passing that wisdom to me and everyone who will read this interview. Those words are so important. Once again, thank you for allowing me to have a slice of your life.
I pray that God will continue to bless you and the works of your hands, be it done according to His will for your life. I pray that God will keep you safe, strong, healthy, and protected. And last, I pray that He will open even more doors for you so that you may fulfill even more of His purpose in your life. Mr. Gossett, God will bless you and your beautiful family, and I'm so proud of you and all of the achievements you have made throughout your lifetime. Thank you for your contributions to the world and what you have shown us and taught us by demonstrating what excellence and class look like through your strive and determination.
Against all odds, you have fought for justice in many ways, even in silence accompanied by action, and have never relented. You are among the courageous warriors who have gone before us to set great examples and kick down doors so we may come through. You were the ones who paid the price of being mistreated in many ways so that we wouldn't have to. Thank you for being one of the ones creating opportunities for all of us. I have nothing but the uttermost respect for you, Mr. Gossett. I'll never forget this encounter, for it will go down in history as one of the most unforgettable interviews in The Indie Post Magazine. Thank you. It's your turn. Get ready.
Thank you so much. God bless you. Bye, bye.
Learn more about Louis Gossett Jr. IMDb
Extra content regarding "The Lou Gossett Jr. Eracism Foundation."
Mr. Lou Gossett Jr. Is also the Founder, President, and Board Chair at Louis Gossett, Jr.'s Eracism Foundation. It is the mission of the Eracism Foundation to eradicate the systematic impacts of racism in all its forms. Through programs that promote cultural diversity, historical enrichment, education, and anti-violence initiatives, especially but not exclusively targeting youth, they plan to achieve that mission.
To accomplish this mission, they plan to use technology to offer Solution Forums, data analyses, and an online training curriculum dealing with race-related issues. Global summits will be held to increase support for our all-important cause by attracting more open hearts and "reeducated" minds to this cause, enlisting more advocates who will donate time and/or funds, including individuals and corporations, as well as key industries, including technology and entertainment.
A worldwide movement of inspiring, bold people-led movements that use social media and information technology to create new, quickly spreading cultural memes intended to eradicate racism."
To learn more about Louis Gossett, Jr.'s Eracism Foundation or to show your support., visit http://www.eracismfoundation.org/
The photo with the blue shirt is by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders from The Black List Project. All other photos are courtesy of Mr. Louis Gossett Jr.
End of Interview
Photo Credits: The photo of Louis Gosset Jr. with the blue shirt is by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders from The Black List Project. All other photos are courtesy of Mr. Louis Gossett Jr.
THE INDIE POST | LOUIS GOSSETT JR.| JULY 20, 2023 ISSUE | VOL 3 | THE INDIE SPOTLIGHT | Oscar, Emmy & Golden Globe Winning Louis Gossett Jr. Unites The World Through Love, Unity & Charity Buy it! Read It!
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Disclaimer: The words of inspiration posted by The Indie Post, written within ( The New American Standard Version Bible Verse) are not the words of the above interviewed.
"John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him."
"Romans 10:9-13 9 [f]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, [g]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [h]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE [i]PUT TO SHAME.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13for “EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”