Louis Gossett Jr. on Post-Oscar Heartbreak

Black Academy Awards Series: The actor told us he won the coveted prize -- but not the quality roles.

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Louis Gossett Jr. with Susan Sarandon and Christopher Reeves at the 1983 Academy Awards (Ron Galella Collection)

As we gear up for the 2013 Academy Awards, airing Feb. 24, The Root is speaking with black Oscar winners and nominees -- past and present -- about the prestigious honor. First in the series: Louis Gossett Jr.

(The Root) -- Louis Gossett Jr. has been in the acting game for a long time. In 1953 a 17-year-old Gossett made his Broadway debut in Take a Giant Step. His first turn on the silver screen came as Beneatha Younger's bourgeois suitor, George Murchison, in the 1961 classic film A Raisin in the Sun.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native -- who passed on an athletic scholarship while at New York University to focus on theater -- has since starred in more than 150 theatrical releases and television productions, including his role as Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, for which he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor. But it was his Emmy-winning role as the older slave Fiddler in the 1977 groundbreaking TV miniseries Roots and its follow-up, Roots: The Gift, that introduced Gossett to many households.

At the time of his Oscar win, Gossett, now 76, was just the second black man to take home a gold statue for acting -- the first was Sidney Poitier, who won the 1964 best actor prize for Lilies of the Field. With that accolade, it would have seemed a no-brainer that Gossett's career would take off. But things didn't pan out as he expected, ultimately leading him to be ensnared by self-pity and substance abuse.

The Root recently caught up with Gossett -- who was on his way to New York to join his fellow Roots cast members in interview rounds celebrating the landmark production -- and he told us about how his life changed after his Oscar win, his battle with alcoholism and why he walked out of Django Unchained.

The Root: How did your life change after you won the Oscar for best supporting actor 30 years ago?

Louis Gossett Jr.: It's been a whirlpool; it's been a roller coaster. But it took a minute for people to find things for me to do. It was the same thing with Roots; there wasn't much employment. I did a lot of television, thank God. I did something with Chuck Norris. And I starred in the Iron Eagle movies. I got a chance to play [Anwar] Sadat. It was mostly all television.

I never got a million dollars for any movie I did in 60 years. Nobody paid me any money. So I figured my role was to keep the door open, to help break the door down. And I have a nice track record. So my role was to break the door down. I stand on Sidney Poitier's shoulders.

TR: There's been a lot of talk and controversy over the years about the lack of black Oscar nominees.

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Black Academy Award Winners: Past and Present

Take a look back at previous black nominees who’ve won.

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