Roots Actors Louis Gossett Jr. and John Amos reflected on the groundbreaking series on its 45th anniversary and said many cast members have not seen their careers improve despite the show’s success .
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Alex Haley, Roots debuted on ABC in January 1977 and followed Kunta Kinte (Amos), an African who is abducted from his home and shipped to North America as a slave. The series was a hit, amassing huge ratings and winning nine Emmy Awards, as well as a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award.
While Gossett Jr won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in the 1982 film An officer and a gentlemanAmos says many other black actors haven’t seen the same profile rise as Gossett or his co-star LeVar Burton, who played young Kinte. Burton would go on to find success in Star Trek: The Next Generation and as host of reading rainbow.
Talk to The Envelope, Amos said, “The truth is that we haven’t received any job offers to match. The inequalities that existed in the industry regarding race still existed, even after Rootsbecause few, if any of us – except for stellar talents like Mr. Gossett and LeVar – have been able to capitalize on the success of Roots.”
He continued, “But most of us in the cast, supporting actors and even stars, haven’t enjoyed the same accolades and acclaim as our white counterparts.”
Amos, who first worked with Gossett on the 1970s sitcom Good timeadded that he was “grateful” for Roots. “I realized Roots was going to be game changing in terms of public education and it was going to be game changing in terms of opportunity,” he said. “But not so dramatically that we could say, ‘Well, now the fight is over.’ This continues to this day.
RootsBroadcast, HBO Max