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Richard Roundtree, Shaft Star and Bowen's Dad on Chicago Fire, Dies at 81

Roundtree played the role of Wallace Boden, Sr. in Season 4 of Chicago Fire.

By Jackie Manno

Actor Richard Roundtree died of pancreatic cancer on October 24, 2023. He was 81 years old.

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Watch Chicago Fire Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC and next day on Peacock.

One Chicago fans may remember the star in his role as Wallace Boden, Sr. in Season 4 of Chicago Fire in 2015. Boden Sr. was a retired detective and the father of Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker). In Roundtree's episodes, his character surprisingly reappeared in his son's life after his grandson was born. However, animosity between the two characters ensued. 

“Richard is an amazing actor who will be a terrific addition to our depth chart for four episodes,” executive producer at the time, Matt Olmstead, told EW after the news of Roundtree's casting was announced in 2014. 

His family was by his side at the time of his passing, according to a statement by his manager, Patrick McMinn. He is survived by his five children, Kelli, Nicole, Taylor, Morgan, and John.

"His trailblazing career changed the face of entertainment around the globe and his enduring legacy will be felt for generations to come," McMinn said, via NBC News

Letts (Richard Roundtree) sits behind a desk looking pensive

Roundtree was best known for originating the role of John Shaft in the Shaft film franchise. Other roles include Charles Deveaux in Heroes, Talbot in Se7en, and Mr. Shaw in Desperate Housewives. He was also in a 1983 episode of the original Magnum P.I., and played the role of Dr. Daniel Reubens in the NBC soap opera Generations that ran from 1989 to 1991. 

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Richard Roundtree on his acting career

In a 2019 interview with The New York Times, Roundtree discussed how achieving fame has affected his life. 

Shaft (Richard Roundtree) looks off camera

"Honestly, I lost it. When all that stuff hits you, you’re not prepared for it. You think you are, but there’s some heady stuff. When people are calling you in front of the line, 'Right this way, right this way.' Oh, it takes awhile to get your feet back on the ground, because I thought my stuff was so good. But it doesn’t take long to get smacked in the face," he said. 

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He continued: "Not a day goes by that I’m not somewhere when someone recites the lines from the [Shaft] theme song, or lines from the film, as if I’ve never heard them before. I’m like, 'Yeah, man. Cool. OK.” But that’s what it is. And at the same time, what else would I be doing? I’m still here. A lot of my friends and associates are no longer here, or no longer in the business, and I’m still gainfully employed. So keep it moving, Roundtree."