“He’s kind of iconic in our community and in our mythology,” Jackson, 70, told the Daily News. “He’s one of our heroes, and we don’t want to make him be a buffoon or a fool in any way. … You still need real danger (in the movie) to respect what Richard created or the Harlem that we know as kind of sexy, dark, dangerous and cool.”
The new “Shaft” opens Friday and centers on Jackson’s sharp-shooting, smooth-talking P.I. teaming up with his estranged son JJ (played by Jesse T. Usher) to uncover the truth about a mysterious death in Harlem.
Roundtree, who starred in three “Shaft” flicks in the ’70s plus a 1973 TV show based on the character, plays his original role in the new film as the family patriarch — giving the movie three generations of Shafts working to solve the case.
Jackson was 22 years old when the first “Shaft” hit theaters and was at the start of an acting career that mostly featured theater productions and TV movies early on. He recalls watching films starring Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte before then, but says there had never been a character quite like Shaft.
“To have a guy like that who was unapologetically black, brave, cool and irreverent was a revelation,” Jackson said. “Like, OK, we’re making different kinds of movies now. By the time the Blaxploitation era hit, people tried to disparage it in an interesting sort of way, but we wanted it. We needed it. I’ve been going to movies all my life, so it was important that I see people who were heroes, who were sticking it to the Man, which is what basically those movies were. It was another way of going to the movies and seeing yourself win, or seeing a hero that looks like you or the hero that you can aspire to be.”