Family & Companions
With his successful run playing a brash attorney on the popular Stephen Bochco legal drama "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994), actor Blair Underwood carved out a niche for himself portraying highly educated authority figures on scores of television series and in feature films. Underwood did all this by managing to avoid negative typecasting of African-American men often seen in Hollywood; earning NAACP Image awards for offering audiences multi-faceted lawyers, doctors and executives in films like "Set it Off" (1996) and "Deep Impact" (1998), and on series ranging from "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) to "LAX" (NBC, 2004-05). The Golden Globe nominee also enjoyed opportunities to bring important African-American cultural touchstones to life in acclaimed TV movies like "Murder in Mississippi" (NBC, 1990), the Negro League baseball chronicle "Soul of the Game" (HBO, 1996) and Alex Haley's "Mama Flora's Family" (CBS, 1998). At the same time, he remained a consistent series star, appearing on shows including medical drama "City of Angels" (CBS 2000), animated comedy "Fatherhood" (Nick at Nite 2004-05), speculative drama "The Event" (NBC 2010-11) and superhero fantasy "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC 2013- ). Twice voted one of People magazine's "Sexiest Men," Underwood's versatility and take-charge appeal proved a consistent crowd pleaser with audiences and critics alike.
Blair Underwood was born on Aug. 25, 1964, in Tacoma, WA, but as the son of a U.S. Army colonel, he grew up on a number of military bases in the United States and Germany. He graduated from high school in Petersburg, VA and studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA, before heading to New York City to become an actor. Underwood got his start with a pair of guest appearances in the No. 1 rated sitcom, "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992), including one as the boyfriend of moody teen Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet). Next, despite his unknown status, Underwood landed the lead in "Krush Groove" (1985), a comic drama based on the early days of Def Jam records with Underwood playing fictionalized rap mogul Russell Simmons. He appeared on the ABC daytime soap "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1968-) for a spell as street kid Bobby Blue before snaring his first primetime series role as a paroled pickpocket on the short-lived CBS venture "Downtown" (1986-87). In the wake of the show's cancellation, Underwood landed a career-making gig in the Emmy-winning Stephen Bochco legal drama "L.A. Law." The actor built up a steady fan base during his six seasons as brash law associate Jonathan Rollins, earning a Golden Globe nomination and an Image Award win for his performance.
The positive reception Underwood received for "L.A. Law" helped pave the way for more film work - first with TV-movies like the 1960s-set "Heat Wave" (TNT, 1990), where he played a Los Angeles newcomer caught in the midst of the Watts riots. That same year, he earned an Image Award for playing Civil Rights martyr James Chaney on NBC's "Murder in Mississippi," which tried, after so many outrageous fictions, to tell the true story of the civil rights workers murdered while fighting for integration in Mississippi. Along with his brother Frank, Underwood formed a production company and directed the short film "The Second Coming" (1992), in which his portrayal of a Christ-like character earned some controversy over the savior's skin color. After another powerful TV film performance as a convicted criminal who meets his father (Louis Gossett, Jr.) for the first time behind bars in "Father & Son: Dangerous Relations" (NBC, 1993), Underwood was back behind bars playing the unjustly imprisoned Claudio opposite Kevin Kline in a production of "Measure for Measure" at the New York Shakespeare Festival. He returned to the big screen to play the sheriff in Mario Van Peebles' African-American anchored Western, "Posse" (1993).
"L.A. Law" came to an end in 1994 and Underwood continued to focus on film, boldly taking on a role as a convicted child rapist whom Sean Connery believes innocent in "Just Cause" (1995). In another Image Award-winning performance, Underwood inhabited the role of groundbreaking baseball player Jackie Robinson in the 1996 HBO original film "Soul of the Game," which purported to tell the story of the bridge between the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues. Underwood's big screen career picked up with supporting roles in "Set It Off" (1996), where he played a bank executive who pursues an unlikely romance with one of a quartet of female bank robbers, and the sci-fi conundrum "Gattaca" (1997), which found him essaying a geneticist. A return to television in the cast of ABC's police drama "High Incident" (1996-97) was short-lived, but Underwood maintained a high profile in the big-budget disaster film "Deep Impact" (1998) and a starring role in the miniseries adaptation of Alex Haley's familial novel, "Mama Flora's Family" (CBS, 1998), which brought the actor another Image Award.
In 2000, Underwood was the perfect actor to anchor "City of Angels" (CBS, 2000), an unfortunately short-lived Bochco medical drama featuring a predominantly African-American cast. Underwood followed up by going against type to play a mute and mysterious Georgia forest-dwelling hermit in Showtime's well-received original movie "The Wishing Tree" (2000). His next pair of feature film releases were not such a hit with the critics, with the military legal thriller "Rules of Engagement" (2000) suffering backlash over its controversial portrayal of Arab culture and Steven Soderbergh's muddled "Full Frontal" (2002) marking an unsuccessful attempt at the director returning to indie sensibility after achieving mainstream Hollywood success. In a departure into a straight-ahead broad comedy, Underwood had a supporting role in "Malibu's Most Wanted" (2003), as the campaign manager to a senator whose privileged, wannabe rapper son (Jamie Kennedy) acts and talks like he is straight out of the 'hood. In 2003 and 2004, Underwood essayed a recurring character on the HBO smash comedy "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004), playing a hunky physician, neighbor and eventual paramour of Miranda. Two Image Award nominations were forthcoming for his charming, sexy performance.
After being tapped by series creator Bill Cosby to provide the voice of Dr. Arthur Bindlebeep in the animated Nick-At-Night series "Fatherhood" (2004-05), Underwood returned to live action primetime opposite Heather Locklear in the disappointing airport-set drama, "LAX" (2004-05), where he portrayed an ambitious airport executive overseeing the busy Los Angeles hub. In 2005, Underwood appeared on the New York stage in a musical revival of Ossie Davis' "Purlie" and returned to the big screen in "G" (2005), a Great Gatsby-inspired story set in the wealthy hip-hop vacation community in New York's The Hamptons. He essayed a physically abusive bank executive in Tyler Perry's "Madea's Family Reunion" (2006), and after a starring role in the miniseries adaptation of Robert Ludlum's doomsday thriller "Covert One: The Hades Factor" (CBS, 2006), Underwood enjoyed two seasons as Julia Louis-Dreyfus' love interest on the sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (CBS, 2006-2010). He spent a season on "Dirty Sexy Money" (ABC, 2007-09), a soap-like drama about a wealthy family of ne'er do wells, and enjoyed success on HBO's "In Treatment" (2008-2010), an hour-long drama about a psychotherapist in which Underwood played a fighter pilot trying to overcome trauma suffered on the job. After leading roles in two short-lived series, the fantasy drama "The Event" (NBC 2010-11) and a reboot of '70s cop staple "Ironside" (NBC 2013) in which he played the title role of wheelchair-bound detective Robert Ironside, Underwood joined the cast of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC 2013- ) in the recurring role of Andrew Garner. The following year, Underwood starred in an acclaimed TV movie version of "The Trip to Bountiful" (2014).
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First speaking role on TV in episode of "The Cosby Show" (NBC)
Made feature film debut in "Krush Groove"
Had a short-lived role the ABC soap opera "One Life to Live"
Cast as lawyer Jonathan Rollins on the NBC series "L.A. Law"; received a Golden Globe nomination in 1990
Made TV-movie debut in "The Cover Girl and the Cop"
Played villain in "Just Cause"
Played Jackie Robinson in "Soul of the Game" (HBO)
Joined the cast of ABC police drama "High Incident"
Had small role as a geneticist in "Gattaca"
Starred in (also executive produced) the romantic thriller, "Assunder"
Had featured role in "Rules of Engagement"
Returned to TV series work as co-star of the CBS medical drama "City of Angels"
Starred opposite Julia Roberts in "Full Frontal"
Cast in the comedy feature "Malibu's Most Wanted"
Had a recurring role as Miranda's boyfriend in the HBO hit series "Sex and the City"
Starred in the short-lived drama "LAX" (NBC)
Cast as a hip-hop mogul in "G" (filmed in 2001), loosely based on "The Great Gatsby"
Co-starred in Tyler Perry's "Madea's Family Reunion"
Co-authored the fiction novel <i>Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel</i> with husband-and-wife team Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
Cast as the recurring character Alex in the HBO series "In Treatment"; earned a Golden Globe nomination in 2009 for Supporting Actor
Played the recurring role of billionaire Simon Elder on ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money"
Cast as the President of the United States in NBC's "The Event"