Fast Facts

  • Joined the Negro Ensemble Company Acting Workshop in 1967.
  • Played private detective John Shaft in Shaft (1971), Shaft's Big Score (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973), and in the TV crime drama Shaft (1973-74).
  • Sidney Poitier wanted the lead role in Shaft, but wouldn't screen-test for it, so director Gordon Parks selected Roundtree as his star.
  • Provided the voice of the title character in the video game Akuji the Heartless.
  • In 1993, was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer that required a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
  • His father, a Pentecostal minister, would not go to see his films until the son talked him into viewing 1996's Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored.
  • While trying to keep his cancer a secret during filming of a 1998 episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, he convinced producers to let him wear a T-shirt in a scene as a topless bare-knuckle fighter, because otherwise it would expose the long surgical scar across his chest.
  • Is a spokesman for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and a men's health-care initiative called Know Your Score.


  • 1972, Golden Globe — New Star of the Year - Actor: Nominee


  • Morgan — Daughter
  • John Roundtree Jr. — Brother
  • John J. Roundtree — Father
  • Kelly — Daughter
  • John James Roundtree — Son
  • Kathryn — Sister
  • Tayler-Marie — Daughter
  • Kathryn Roundtree — Mother
  • Nicole — Daughter
  • Karen Roundtree — Wife


  • Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, United States

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  • Birth Name: Richard Arnold Roundtree
  • Birth Place: New Rochelle, New York, United States
  • Profession: Actor

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