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
Tayler-Marie — Daughter
Kathryn Roundtree — Mother
Nicole — Daughter
John J. Roundtree — Father
Kelly — Daughter
John James Roundtree — Son
Kathryn — Sister
Karen Roundtree — Wife
Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, United States
Birth Name: Richard Arnold Roundtree
Birth Place: New Rochelle, New York, United States