Can You Dig It? Original 'Shaft' Richard Roundtree Calls Reboot Return 'A Comfortable Pair Of Shoes'
Iconic actor Richard Roundtree is returning to the silver screen in his famous role as “the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about.”
Roundtree became the epitome of cool nearly 50 years ago thanks to his role in “Shaft” as private detective John Shaft, helping spawn the blaxploitation film genre and inspiring a generation of black directors. Now, the 1971 classic is being brought back to life with a new reboot featuring Roundtree, Samuel L. Jackson, Regina Hall and Jessie Usher.
Roundtree says the multigenerational remake has evolved with the times, calling it “totally different” than the original.
“I think we covered all the bases with the millennials and the old-school attitudes that seemingly have to bend if you will, not totally change but bend, and realize that things are changing,” he tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young. “You get to look at how it bridges the three generations. There’s an innate respect across the board.”
He says he was hesitant about jumping aboard another “Shaft” film, after a short-lived TV series and two sequels received less fanfare than expected.
But to his surprise, after reading the new “Shaft” script, he was all in.
“This thing is off the chain,” Roundtree says.
On embodying the Shaft character again
“Well honestly, it’s much like riding a bike. I mean, it’s a comfortable pair of shoes.”
On the original director Gordon Parks
“Well Gordon Parks is Shaft. The way he moved, the way he talked. He is the most sophisticated, smooth person that I have ever met. And to be in his presence and to be a part of something that he has his stamp on is magical to me.”
On the responsibility of the Shaft character
“I used to look at it as a double-edged sword. But I’ve had so many people from all over the country — and all over the world actually — come up and say what that film meant to them back in ’71. It’s heavy. And I’m appreciative of people speaking to me and sharing that with me. The other side of it is I got typecast for quite some time, and then I’ve gone out of my way to establish a different side of my acting, even going to playing the first interracial gay couple married on television.
“My dad said to me once, he was out visiting me in LA and I was complaining about [how] 24/7, the Shaft character comes up, and he says, ‘Son, let me tell you something. A lot of people leave this Earth not being known for anything. Shut up.’ ”
On speaking publicly about his battle with breast cancer
“I didn’t have a vote, I had to speak about it. Breast cancer is not gender specific. And men have this cavalier attitude about health issues. And I got such positive feedback because I spoke out about it and it’s been quite a number of years now. I’m a survivor.”
Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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