When Richard Roundtree says you’re cool, is there anything left to accomplish?
Roundtree – the actor who played the title character in the “Shaft” franchise of the 1970s – had the all-too-civilian experience of being unexpectedly coined for the first time when he visited Naval Base San Diego on a USO tour Feb. 17.
He appreciated the base commanding officer’s style.
“He shook my hand and in the palm of his hand – I have it right here in front of me – he had this [coin],” the jovial actor said of his interaction with Capt. Curt Jones. “The way he gave it to me was just too cool.”
Roundtree knows cool. He’s spent five decades exuding it on screen, including his recent run on BET’s hit drama “Being Mary Jane.” Roundtree and co-stars B.J. Britt and Aaron Spears toured the base together last month.
“I was blown away seeing up close and personal what the Navy was about,” Roundtree said. “From a civilian’s point of view, I got to see a lot and it was wonderful.
“The icing on the cake was how appreciative the enlisted [troops] were toward us. It was just great. I loved it.”
The trio of actors mingled with troops and military family members, stopping to pose for photos and talk about their show and, of course, a little nostalgia.
“[Troops] were relating primarily to ‘Shaft’ understandably,’” said Roundtree, who had two paternal uncles who served in World War II. “I tried to push [“Being Mary Jane,” and they would say] ‘Oh yeah, yeah, we know all about that, but “Shaft” …’
“Even watching the Academy Awards the other night, there was the ‘Shaft’ theme in there at one point,” he said, chuckling.
Roundtree has transformed from an action hero to the man who polices the action in “Being Mary Jane.” He plays Paul Patterson Sr., the father of series star Gabriel Union’s Mary Jane Paul. The series has received positive reviews and was recently picked up for a third season.
“The beauty of it is the universality of the story lines are just great to be a part of,” he said. “Gabriele Union – the trials and tribulations she goes through with the extended family and I have to run kind of roughshod over this whole family – very exciting work. And challenging. I’m having a great time.”