Authoritative black character actor of film and TV also enjoyed a successful career on stage. Gunn made his NY stage debut in the original off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's "The Blacks" (1962). A co-founder of the celebrated Negro Ensemble Company, he distinguished himself in many of their productions, notably "The First Breeze of Summer" (1975). Gunn was also known for his Shakespearean performances with the Yale Repertory Theatre and the New York Shakespeare Festival.
Gunn rarely had comparable roles to showcase his talents in films but his large, regal features and booming yet somewhat raspy voice stood out during his 25-year film career. Gunn may be best remembered as Bumpy Jonas, the powerful Harlem gangster whose daughter is kidnapped in Gordon Parks' "Shaft" (1971). He reprised that role in Parks' "Shaft's Big Score" (1972). Gunn was also memorable as Booker T. Washington in "Ragtime" (1981). His last major film was Clint Eastwood's "Heartbreak Ridge" (1986) in which he played aging vet Sergeant Webster.
Gunn also worked extensively in TV. He was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of African chief Kintango in the first installment of "Roots" (ABC, 1977). Gunn joined the cast of the hit CBS sitcom, "Good Times" in 1977 as Carl Dixon, the appliance store owner who marries the widowed Esther Rolle and whisks her away from the projects. He was also a guest star on numerous series including "The Cosby Show", "Equal Justice" and "Homicide".