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Blair Underwood has distinguished himself as a charismatic and versatile actor who is currently showcasing his talents in film, television and theatre. Underwood stars as cocky terminal manager Roger DeSouza in NBC’s highly anticipated new drama “LAX” . Underwood was drawn to DeSouza’s flawed character –- “...he has a gambling addiction, has problems staying faithful, has a child from a previous relationship...he’s got a lot of issues and that’s great stuff to play.” He also voices the lead character, Dr. Bindlebeep, in Bill Cosby's new animated series for Nick at Nite (their first) -- "Fatherhood." In five recent episodes of the hit HBO series "Sex & the City," Blair Underwood played Robert Leeds, the NY Knicks team doctor who romanced his neighbor Miranda. His portrayal earned him a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor. Underwood recently starred in and produced the independent drama "How Did It Feel?" The film is a character-driven drama based on the award-winning play of the same name. Underwood plays a working-class intellectual whose life is rocked when his wife's younger sister comes to live with them. He also stars in the upcoming independent films “G,” “Hit Man” and “Straight Out of Compton 2.” Additionally, Underwood is in pre-production on “My Soul To Keep," a supernatural thriller based on the novel by Tananarive Due (Fox Searchlight), that he will star in and produce. Underwood recently completed a tour of his one-main show "IM4: From the Mountaintop to Hip Hop." The play, written by Underwood's brother, is the story of a rap mogul who gets gunned down. During his heavenly journey, the mogul meets the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Underwood plays both characters – and others, too. He was recently seen in the Warner Bros. comedy "Malibu's Most Wanted" and was the male lead opposite Julia Roberts in Steven Soderbergh's "Full Frontal." Underwood starred as a Marine captain in William Friedkin's "Rules of Engagement," for which he won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Film. That same year he won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his starring role in Steven Bochco's "City of Angels." In 2000, People magazine named him one of its “50 Most Beautiful People.”
Underwood's other film credits include his portrayals of a space shuttle flight navigator in the Paramount/DreamWorks hit “Deep Impact,” a death row inmate in Warner Bros.' “Just Cause,” a geneticist in Columbia’s “Gattaca,” a sheriff in “Posse,” and a corporate banker in New Line’s “Set It Off.” He received an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a motion picture for the latter role. As director, executive producer, writer and star of the dramatic short “The Second Coming,” Underwood played Jesus Christ returning to earth. In addition, he produced and starred in the independent thriller “Asunder” and the short film “Sister, I’m Sorry.” He also has five music videos to his directing credit. Underwood grew up an “Army brat,” living in cities all over the world, but he calls Virginia his home. He burst into the national spotlight with his confident and passionate portrayal of lawyer Jonathan Rollins in the NBC hit series “L.A. Law.” The role also earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Additionally, TV Guide singled him out as one of “The Top Stars of the 90s.” Underwood starred in CBS’ top-rated 1998 dramatic miniseries, “Mama Flora’s Family,” which was based on Alex Haley’s last book. The performance earned him an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Television Movie/Miniseries. Underwood won the NAACP Image Award for Best Actor in a Television Movie for NBC's "Murder in Mississippi" and starred as Jackie Robinson in HBO’s “Soul of the Game,” for which he received another NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie/Miniseries. Underwood also starred in Showtime's "The Wishing Tree" and TNT’s award-winning “Heat Wave.”
His theater credits include “Measure for Measure,” at the 1993 New York Shakespeare Festival, “El Negro en Peru,” “The Game of Love and Chance,” and “Love Letters” opposite Alfre Woodard. Underwood is involved in numerous charitable organizations. His dedicated support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association won him the 1993 Humanitarian Award, presented by the Los Angeles Chapter of MDA. He is also co-founder of Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA). Founded in 1989 with Alfre Woodard, Danny Glover, Mary Steenburgen, CCH Pounder and other friends in the arts and entertainment community, ANSA supports a democratic South Africa with equal rights and opportunities for all citizens. In spring 2005, Underwood will publish a non-fiction book called “Your Child’s Soul” (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.). The book is a collection of online submissions from parents that speak to the existence of a child’s soul prior to birth. Underwood was born on August 25, 1964, in Tacoma, Washington. His father was a U.S. Army Colonel. When he was a child, his family lived in Germany, Colorado, Michigan, and Virginia. Blair's wife is Desiree Da Costa and he arrived on horseback to his wedding ceremony. Blair also appeared and sang in the music video "Voices That Care."
The Africana Q&A: Blair Underwood
After taking some time away from acting to direct and produce, Blair Underwood is returning to the big and little screen this year with a slew of high-profile guest appearances and lead roles.
Blair Underwood is one of the few black actors in Hollywood blessed with a continuous string of work. Despite guest spots and even a little soap opera drama, he first raised our eyebrows as a young Russell Simmons in 1985’s Krush Groove and then really got our attention as Jonathan Rollins on L.A. Law. Since then, he has played a plethora of upwardly mobile roles, including a doctor in the short-lived CBS medical series City of Angels, a captain in Rules of Engagement and a banker in Set It Off. On the independent film circuit, he has surprised festival patrons as an artist/psychotic stalker in Tim Reid's Asunder and, more recently, as a manipulative and philandering husband in G, described as an urban retelling of The Great Gatsby.
He has also taken his destiny into his own hands. In addition to directing a few music videos and a short film, producing is also one of his many pursuits. Years ago, he optioned Tananarive Due's supernatural thriller My Soul to Keep, which seems to have found a home at Fox Searchlight with Rick Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar, The Wood) directing and Underwood as the star. Right now, the spotlight is on Underwood because he has been selected to romance one of the four Sex and the City gals. Just as he spiced up L.A. Law years ago, he is just doing his part to ensure that Sex and the City gets that much more sexier as the season comes to an end.
How did your role on Sex and the City come about?
I'm not sure how it came about from their side. But all I know is that I received a call from my agent and they were kind enough to invite me on to the show and I said yes. I think I mentioned that it is one of my wife's favorite shows.
From the episode guide, it seems that you will be dating Miranda.
Well, I can't say.
Well just talk about the experience in general then.
I can tell you that I am doing four episodes. My character's name is Dr. Robert Leeds. He is a doctor for the New York Knicks basketball team and he is the love interest of one of those four.
How is it that you are able to have interracial relationships on screen and still be loved by black women?
You know what, you can answer that better than I can. I don't know. That's a very interesting question. You are probably the first person to ask me that in an interview. I have kind of analyzed that and one sister told me I think part of the reason, this is just conjecture, this is what has been said to me. I've been in the game a long time and I've been married nine years. People know I'm married to a sister. People know that I'm in love with my wife. I think that carries a lot of weight. I really do. This is what’s been said to me.
When I did Full Frontal, I had that conversation with Julia Roberts. I think knowing that actor makes a big difference . . . What I heard a lot was "you know what, I may not be crazy about it but it's Julia Roberts. And she has kind of shown herself to be cool to black folks in the past so I'm not going to sweat her too hard.” It is what I heard over and over, and she had heard the same thing. People know how she has supported Denzel over the years and people are aware of that so they didn't really sweat her that hard.
You are one of the few black actors of your caliber who has been friendly to the independent film world. You seem to be able to navigate a lot of different worlds. Is that just a natural thing or is it something you do consciously?
I think it is both a combination of desire and necessity. I think to survive in this business, to have any type of longevity, you really have to diversify yourself. I try to be as versatile as possible and try to work in and out of mediums, be it television, stage or whatever it is. It is something I have always aspired to do. Sometimes the opportunities aren't always there so you kind of go out of the box. You create your own opportunities . . . directing music videos or buying book properties and setting them up, writing scripts and directing. You do what you can to kind of cast a broader net. In the movie [My Soul to Keep], my character is from Ethiopia. He is immortal, so we shot a lot of the flashback footage when he tells his wife who he really is, his true identity. We went to Addis Abba, which is the capital of Ethiopia. We also went to this remote ancient village called Lalibela, which is where the character is from.
And this is before you started setting it up at a studio?
Yeah, Tim Reid and I just put our own money into it and just went and said let's just make it happen. What it does is it shows potential financiers so they get an idea of the feel and look of it.
Had you ever been to Ethiopia before?
Never. It was truly an experience, the most beautiful people on the planet.
What else are you working on?
Fatherhood. I'm really excited about it. I'm doing that right now, and I have three young kids so they are excited that Daddy now goes to work at Nickelodeon. It's their first original, animated movie. It will air on Nick at Nite in January 2004 and I'm doing the voice of the father. It is executive produced by Bill Cosby, it's based on his book, but I am in no way, shape or form imitating him and that is not what they're looking for. It is just a father's voice and someone who is loving and caring and loves to teach and being a father of three, it's something I know a little bit about.
Blair Underwood: The Rules Of Engagement
Sidney Poitier once told Blair Underwood not to worry about misrepresenting African Americans by choosing edgy, amoral but still true-to-life characters.
" I went through that so you wouldn't have to ," he said.
Since then, Underwood has heeded his role model's advice, and become not only a prolific motion picture entertainer, earning producing and directing film credits, but one of today's most charismatic and diverse actors.
Blair Underwood is hardly a spit-and-polish military man, but he does get the Rules Of Engagement drill.
"My father was a full-bird colonel," reports Underwood, who co-stars in Rules Of Engagement with Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones.
On TV he might be a City Of Angels doctor. But at the movies Underwood plays a Marine captain, second in command to Jackson's colonel, sent to protect the U.S. ambassador and his family at the Yemen embassy.
In Underwood's scenes, there is gunplay and gung-ho heroics. But battle fatigues and weapons were not an oddity to the 35-year-old, who lived through many Marine manoeuvres and many more bases -- at Stuttgart, Fort Dix and the Pentagon, to name a few.
And while the armed forces was not a life for him, he still appreciates and understands the rank-and-file mentality.
"Even without a uniform, you know a Marine as soon as he opens his mouth," says Underwood, who went through a gruelling basic training camp with Jackson and the cast in Morocco. "You can tell a Marine in the walk and the talk, and I think we captured it."
He also nailed something else. He's getting good notices as the star surgeon, Dr. Ben Stone, on City Of Angels, the Steve Bochco medical series.
If you recall, Underwood worked with Bochco previously on L.A. Law, the actor's first major TV role.
Before that he was a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, moved to New York, where he did some theatre, and landed a job on the soap, One Life To Live, before moving to L.A. for L.A. Law.
When Law finished, Underwood hired himself out as a character co-star in a string of movies -- Just Cause, Set It Off, Deep Impact. He was the lead in one failed cop show, High Incident.
That's not all. The former Marine brat produced and stars in the Tim Reid-directed thriller feature, Asunder, which is tentatively set for release later in the year.
Yet his focus is on the TV show, which may or may not get picked up for next season. Underwood hopes that it is, and not just because it showcases a mostly all-African-American cast.
Blair Underwood Talks About "Malibu's Most Wanted"
BLAIR UNDERWOOD plays 'Tom'
Q: Can you describe your character, 'Tom?'
A: His name is Tom, I've got a feeling that's got something to do with 'Uncle Tom.' He's the brother that sells his soul to the devil. [Jamie's] father is running for Governor of California and I play his father's campaign manager.
Q: What was the atmosphere like on the set?
A: It was big fun. Jamie and Anthony Anderson - and Taye Diggs - we just had a great time. I tell you one of the great things about this movie is, with all that's going on around the world right now, it's just good to go to a movie where you don't have to think too hard, just have a good time, and relax and be crazy.
Q: Will this film encourage white rappers?
A: I think they're encouraged enough, you know? (laughing). They are doing their thing, they are just doing their thing.
Q: Do you know how to rap?
A: No, no, no, no.
People Magazine named Blair Underwood as one of the Sexiest Man Alive
Now: Roger De Souza on NBC's LAX
You Remember Him As: Lawyer Jonathan Rollins on L.A. LAW
Where He's Been: In numerous films and on Sex and the City playing Miranda's steamy neighbor.
Stayed Hot By: Focusing on his three children with wife Desiree. "Family time is usually on the weekends. It's soccer or flag football or just Daddy time. It just keeps everything in perspective," says Underwood.
He Still Has it: On-set, "he is beyond charismatic," says LAX costar Heather Locklear. "And quite the gentleman."
Why He is Having The Time of His Life: During taping, Underwood and Locklear have been known to spend their lunch hour at Universal Studios' Theme Park. "We hit all the rides," he says. "What a great way to break up the workday."
Amazon Theater Debuts ''Do Geese See God'' Starring Blair Underwood
Third in the five-film series, "Do Geese See God" features Underwood as a modern man obsessed with finding inner salvation -0- *T WHAT: The third of five films in the Amazon Theater short film series, "Do Geese See God," stars Blair Underwood and is directed by David Slade. The film debuts today on Amazon.com's homepage (www.amazon.com). Amazon has produced a series of five short films distributed ONLY on Amazon.com as a free holiday gift to its customers. Today, and each Tuesday through December 7, Amazon.com will debut a new film in the Amazon Theater series, which customers can view directly from the Amazon.com homepage. "The quantity of people you can reach on Amazon is really amazing--we're talking about millions of customers," said actor Blair Underwood. "Imagine getting that number of people watching a television show, or in a movie theater? Amazon Theater is an innovative new way to reach the consumer and to entertain." Slade shot the film throughout downtown Los Angeles this past summer. While incorporating the karmic message that is the loose thread running through all five films in the series, "Do Geese See God" uniquely captures the gritty feel of the city as a backdrop for the rising, circular, frenetic tension of Underwood's character. "Do Geese See God" is a palindrome, one of several in the film. Customers who "stop and smell the roses" will have access to special alternate endings that ultimately release them from the film's perpetual loop. WHO: -- David Slade: Director, David Slade is known for incredibly clean imagery and powerful cinematic style that is offset with surreal and absurd concepts. Slade's work includes music videos for bands like the Stone Temple Pilots, OPM, Collective Soul, and POD. He has also created existential and beautiful music videos for artists such as Tori Amos, David Gray, and the Prodigy's Maxim. Most recently, Slade has started development of his first feature film, "This Way to Egress," written by Charly Cantor and optioned from Lawrence C. Connolly's short story "Traumatic Descent." -- Blair Underwood: The award-winning actor most recently starred in the NBC drama "LAX" opposite Heather Locklear. His extensive film and television credits include "Sex & the City," "L.A. Law," "Rules of Engagement," "Deep Impact," "Just Cause," "Gattaca," "Malibu's Most Wanted" and "Full Frontal" in which he starred opposite Julia Roberts. Underwood has recently turned his talents to literary pursuits, working on the upcoming book entitled "Before I Got Here: And Other Amazing Things Your Children Say" for the Atria imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com. -- Ezra Buzzington: Buzzington plays the panhandler in this film. He has written, directed and starred in a short film called "Irascible." Other acting credits include "Me, Myself and Irene" and "Say It Isn't So." -- Mageina Tovah: Tovah plays the rose vendor in "Do Geese See God." She can also be seen in her current guest role on "Joan of Arcadia." Her other credits include "Spider-Man 2" and "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." Additionally, customers can use the interactive credits at the end of "Do Geese See God" to shop on Amazon.com for items appearing in the film. Product cameos include: Blair's watch: Casio EDB610-1C Databank Watch - For Men Ezra's PDA: HP iPAQ Pocket PCs Ezra's shoes: Men's K-Swiss Classic white/white Street pole cell phone: Sony Ericsson T637 Television: Panasonic TH-42PX25U/P 42" High-Definition Plasma TV DVD Player: Panasonic DMR-E85HS Progressive Scan DVD Player/Recorder with 120 GB Hard Drive Recording Home Theater: Panasonic SC-HT05 Home Theater System DVD Disc: Recordable Media Discs Rose Bouquet: One dozen red roses WHEN: Premieres Tuesday, November 23, 2004, and screens through Monday, November 29 WHERE: Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) CONTACT: Jani Baker or Molly Ingle Amazon.com 206.266.7810 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org *T
Star recalls a great Blair-line meal
Blair Underwood logged some in-flight training for his role as a womanizing terminal manager on NBC's canceled airport drama, "LAX."
"Long before I met my wife, there was an Ethiopian beauty next to me on a flight from New York to L.A.," the hunky actor told Lowdown yesterday.
"Maybe I shouldn't tell this story. I remember she was teaching me the customs of Ethiopia and how many times women feed men with their hands. She proceeded to pamper me and feed me the food, because that's what they did back home.
"It's the first time airport food ever seemed sexy."
Underwood's new film, "Do Geese See God," goes online today in "Amazon Theater," a new series of short films at Amazon.com "I play a man tormented by time. It's kind of groundbreaking - I felt like I got very lucky."
Curiously, the actor also has been busy editing a compilation of essays, "Before I Got Here," a meditation on the birth of the soul. "It's just conversations little kids have where they say these phenomenal things, and your jaw drops," Underwood said, stressing that his book isn't meant as an anti-abortion polemic.
"When my oldest son was 4, he said to me, 'Last night, I had a dream, and last night is a double entendre. Last night, means the night two nights ago, and also the last night before there are no more mornings and no more nights. That's when people are going up to heaven.'
"I said, 'Who told you that?' He said, 'God told me that when he made me, but I only had one ear at the time.'
"I was so flabbergasted I pulled over to the side of the road. The book is a compilation of these stories. We have a lot already and we're encouraging people to add their own at childsoul.com. I'd love for you to include that."
Blair Underwood stars in the first African-American drama ''City of Angels''
That's is the latest about Steven Bochco's milestone TV series, however, ''City of Angels'' star Blair Underwood explains that the show isn't just for African Americans.
So far, Uberproducer Steven Bochco has cast just one star -- Blair Underwood -- and barely set a shooting date (September) for his highly anticipated CBS medical series, ''City of Angels,'' but already Hollywood is buzzing about what promises to become network TV's first African-American drama. But wait just a second -- Underwood tells EW Online that it's a mistake to label the show, which debuts on CBS in January, before it even airs. Yes, the major players will be black, but don't expect ''Angels'' to cater solely to African-American audiences like a WB comedy. ''It's a medical drama that happens to have African-American faces in it, not an African-American drama,'' says Underwood, 34, who'll play Dr. Ben Turner, head surgeon at the inner-city L.A. hospital where the show is set. ''It's a series about urban life, starring African Americans. But we're ready to put the stories first, not our race.''..