Louis Gossett Jr.

After making a splash on Broadway while only 16 years old, Louis Gossett Jr. made his name with acclaimed performances in "The Desk Set" (1955) and "A Raisin in the Sun" (1959), while making slower strides on television and in feature films. He finally became a star with his Emmy-winning performance in the groundbreaking miniseries, "Roots" (ABC, 1977), which opened fewer doors than one would have imagined. With his solid performance as a tough-as-nails drill sergeant in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982), Gossett became the first African-American to win an Academy Awards since Sidney Poitier in 1964. But the offers for quality material failed to roll in, which plunged the actor into a depression made worse by drug and alcohol abuse. He managed to pull himself out of his rut with numerous made-for-television movies and a well-liked role as an Air Force colonel in "Iron Eagle" (1985). Though sometimes limited to rather forgettable straight-to-video thrillers, Gossett's long and varied career allowed him to be regarded as one of the more respected performers of his generation.