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Actor Louis Gossett Jr, who voiced Half-Life 2's vortigaunts, has died

  Actor Louis Gossett Jr. attends the Hollywood Walk Of Fame Honors in 2016.
Actor Louis Gossett Jr. attends the Hollywood Walk Of Fame Honors in 2016.

Actor Louis Gossett Jr, who has appeared in dozens of films, television shows, and plays—as well as two videogames—died this week at 87, reports AP News.

Gossett began acting as a teenager in New York, and as a young adult landed a number of roles in Broadway plays, including 1959 classic A Raisin in the Sun. In 1977, he won an Emmy for his performance in TV miniseries Roots, and in 1983 he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in An Officer and a Gentleman, becoming the first Black actor to win the award.

He didn't win any awards for it that I'm aware of, but Gossett also appeared in two of the most famous PC games: Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode One. In both games, Gossett voiced the vortigaunts, friendly aliens who were formerly subjugated by Half-Life's interdimensional antagonists, The Combine. (In Episode Two and Half-Life: Alyx, the vortigaunts are voiced by Tony Todd.)

In one notable encounter in Half-Life 2's coast section (the bit where walking on sand summons antlions), a pair of vortigaunts explain that they normally communicate with each other by "flux shifting" but that, "as a matter of courtesy" to those with impaired "vortal inputs" they'll use auditory language—except when they don't want you to know what they're saying. As soon as they finish addressing the player, they go back to speaking in a melodic alien tongue.

Half-Life 2 and its first expansion weren't the only times Gossett played an alien. In 1985 cult sci-fi classic Enemy Mine—perhaps what led him to the Half-Life 2 role—Gossett portrayed an alien stranded on a desolate planet with a human played by Dennis Quaid.

In his memoir, An Actor and a Gentleman, Gossett described the racism he experienced as a Black actor in Hollywood—summarized in AP's obituary—and in 2006, he created the Eracism Foundation, whose mission is "to contribute to the creation of a society where racism does not exist."

In his final role, Gossett played Ol' Mister Johnson in last year's musical adaptation of The Color Purple.

"You left behind so many tokens for us and paved the way for Black Actors and Actresses," wrote the film's lead actor, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor, in a post today. "You will be missed, but Man did you Live a Blessed Life."

"We lost a true great. A true legend," wrote actor Colman Domingo, who portrayed Albert Johnson in the film. "...We are forever indebted. May we stand firmly on his shoulders. Lift him up today. R.I.P."