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Leslie Uggams Remembers 'Roaring with Laughter' with Her Late “Roots” Costar Louis Gossett Jr. (Exclusive)

The actress tells PEOPLE that Gossett, who died at age 87 on Friday, was "full of joy and mischief"

<p>Monica Schipper/WireImage; Amy Sussman/Getty</p> From left: Leslie Uggams and Lou Gossett Jr.

Monica Schipper/WireImage; Amy Sussman/Getty

From left: Leslie Uggams and Lou Gossett Jr.

Leslie Uggams is paying tribute to her late Roots costar Louis Gossett Jr. after his death.

Following news of Gossett’s death, the Emmy nominee, 80, tells PEOPLE that the actor told “the best stories of anybody I ever knew.”

“He was just mesmerizing...He'd just keep us roaring with laughter and just like, ‘I can't believe this story, this is amazing,’” she recalls. “He was full of joy and mischief.”

<p>Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty</p> From left: Al Roker, Levar Burton, Leslie Uggams and Lou Gossett Jr. appear on NBC News' "Today" show

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty

From left: Al Roker, Levar Burton, Leslie Uggams and Lou Gossett Jr. appear on NBC News' "Today" show

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In addition to Roots — the critically acclaimed 1977 miniseries that chronicled slavery in the U.S. — the pair also starred together in Backstairs at the White House.

Uggams remembers Gossett, who was the first Black man to win a best supporting actor Oscar, encouraging his fellow performers to up their game.

<p>Everett</p> clockwise from bottom left: Olivia Cole, Louis Gossett Jr., Leslie Uggams in "Backstairs at the White House"

Everett

clockwise from bottom left: Olivia Cole, Louis Gossett Jr., Leslie Uggams in "Backstairs at the White House"

“When you work with people like that, they raise the bar,” she says of Gossett. “And so you either raise it with them or you're left behind. And that's what he did.”

“You better bring it because they are just going to be incredible every single performance,” she continues. “And I love working with people like that. And that's who Lou was. I mean, he was incredible. Also such a gentleman, he was just so brilliant at that. And so it was special.”

Related: Louis Gossett Jr.'s Color Purple Costars Pay Tribute to Actor After His Death: 'A True Legend'

<p>Matthew Eisman/Getty</p> Leslie Uggams and Louis Gossett Jr. attend SiriusXM Town Hall with the cast of "Roots" hosted by Joe Madison at SiriusXM Studios on February 5, 2013 in New York City.

Matthew Eisman/Getty

Leslie Uggams and Louis Gossett Jr. attend SiriusXM Town Hall with the cast of "Roots" hosted by Joe Madison at SiriusXM Studios on February 5, 2013 in New York City.

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Uggams recalls Gossett being “magic” as an actor, sharing, “I saw Lou when he did an off-Broadway show because a friend of mine who I went to school with was doing this off-Broadway play. And I thought, wow, who is this guy? And then of course, I was there one night when he did Raisin in the Sun. The Blacks, I mean, he was just incredible. Incredible.”

Gossett's family confirmed the actor’s death in a statement obtained by PEOPLE Friday, and asked that people “please respect the family's privacy during this difficult time."

The Associated Press was first to report news of Gossett's death. The actor's nephew told the outlet that he died Thursday night in Santa Monica, Calif. No cause of death has yet been revealed.

"We would like to thank everyone for their condolences,” the family said in its statement.

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