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‘Shaft’ Star Richard Roundtree Is Still Acting at 79: Where Is He Now?

Bettina Dizon
Jun 20, 2022
03:22 A.M.
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Richard Roundtree famously starred as John Shaft in the action movie "Shaft." He later became a Hollywood star with several films and shows and remains active in the entertainment industry.


Playing the titular character in the 1971 movie "Shaft" launched Richard Roundtree as an action star. He also reprised the role in the film's sequels and television adaptation.

Known for his turtleneck top and leather coat, the on-screen private detective was pivotal in changing the dynamics between Hollywood and black America.

Richard Roundtree during the filming of the movie "Shaft's Big Score!", circa 1972. | Source: Getty Images


With only $500,000 set for the budgeted film, "Shaft" grossed $12 million then and was significant in saving MGM production from becoming bankrupt.

Roundtree, born in New York, was a taxi driver, model, and stage actor before becoming a movie star. His career has since been a whirlwind of success, with the actor showing no signs of slowing down.


Success followed Roundtree after his breakthrough role, and he shared the screens with the likes of Clint Eastwood, David Niven, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Oliver, and Brad Pitt.


Richard Roundtree during the LA Focus’ 24th Annual First Ladies High Tea on The Beverly Hilton on May 07, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images

He was also recognized for his performances, receiving an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best leading Actor in a Series and a Peabody Award for "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow."


Beyond the glitz and glamour Hollywood life brought him, Roundtree fought a personal battle when he was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. He recalled:

“The doctor told me, 'You have breast cancer.' I heard the cancer part first – it was only later that I heard the breast part. I couldn't believe it.”


He remained silent about his condition until he was cancer-free and has since raised awareness for breast cancer among the male population. He said:

“Not talking about my cancer was really tough, and not that I do talk about it all the time. It's really become a backhanded blessing.”

Roundtree remains grateful for beating such a disease and helping others who may have it get checked for an early diagnosis. "It let men know that early detection can save your life," he said.


Nowadays, the actor is still active in show business and would, if given the opportunity, reprise his role as Shaft. Behind the scenes, Roundtree is a loving father of four children from two marriages. In 1963, he tied the knot with Mary Jane Grant, and in 1980, he married Karen M. Ciernia.


In recent years, he starred in the television shows "Sacrifice," "Being Mary Jane," "Cherish the Day," and "Family Reunion."

He shares the screen with several talented stars in "Family Reunion," including Cameron J. Wright, Anthony Albai, Talia Jackson, and Tia Mowry-Hardrict, a former Disney Channel star who grew up with a black mom and a white father.


Richard Roundtree durin the 24th L.A. Focus 24th Annual First Ladies High Tea at The Beverly Hilton on May 07, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images

Like many other women of color, Mowry experienced racism first-hand and shared about her life growing up in Hollywood.