"It's so easy to sell your soul or sell out or cop out, and what it really comes down to is choices. If you have some kind of game plan, or at least a faith in your ability, it doesn't matter if this town validates you or not because you're already validated by your gifts. I just try to stay focused on what I have to offer." Blair Underwood
Making his first on-screen appearance in two episodes of "The Cosby Show" in 1985, Blair Underwood gained even more recognition as brash attorney Jonathan Rollins (1987-1994) on NBC’s popular legal drama "L.A. Law," and then as Dr. Ben Turner (2000) on CBS' short-lived medical drama "City of Angels." He was then seen as Cynthia Nixon’s boyfriend Dr. Robert Leeds (2003-2004) on HBO's popular show "Sex and the City," and terminal manager Roger De Souza (2004) in "LAX." On the big screen, the smart and confident actor played significant roles in Krush Groove (1985), Just Cause (1995), Rules of Engagement (2000), G (2002), Full Frontal (2002), Malibu's Most Wanted (2003) and Madea's Family Reunion (2006).
Underwood will soon co-star with Gabriel Byrne in HBO's upcoming psychological drama series "In Treatment." He is also stepping behind the camera and will direct Ving Rhames in a forthcoming indie crime drama film titled The Bridge to Nowhere.
The 5' 11" tall, exceptionally handsome leading man was one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 2000 and one of TV Guide's “Most Influential Faces of the 90s.” He is married to actress Desiree DaCosta and they have three kids.
Childhood and Family:
Born in Tacoma, Washington, on August 25, 1964, to a U.S. Army Colonel (Frank Underwood; wife Marilyn), Blair Underwood spent his childhood on military bases in the United States and Germany. He attended Petersburg High School in Petersburg, Virginia, in the early 80s, and then attended the School of Drama in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
On September 17, 1994, Underwood married actress Desiree DaCosta. They have three children: two sons named Paris Underwood (born in February 1997) and Blake Ellis (born on June 9, 2001), and one daughter, Brielle Nicole Underwood (born on November 12, 1998).
After honing in on his acting skills at Carnegie-Mellon, Blair Underwood headed for the Big Apple and immediately landed guest spots on NBC’s long-running sitcom "The Cosby Show" in 1985, first as an extra and then as Denise’s friend. That same year, he made his feature film debut portraying real-life up-and-coming record producer/manager Russell Walker in Michael Schultz's rap drama Krush Groove.
Following his big screen debut, Underwood was handed regular roles as Bobby Blue (1985-1986) on ABC’s soap opera "One Life to Live" and then paroled mugger Terry Corsaro in the short-lived CBS cop drama "Downtown" (1986-1987). Afterward, he entered the spotlight as brash lawyer Jonathan Rollins (1987-1994) on the NBC popular legal drama "L.A. Law." During his seven-year stint in the show, Underwood was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV. He also appeared in a TV commercial for Burger King.
Meanwhile, Underwood appeared in a number of made-for-TV movies, including Mickey's 60th Birthday (1988; alongside Kirstie Alley), The Cover Girl and the Cop (1989; starring Julia Duffy), the Emmy-winning Heat Wave (1990; with David Strathairn and James Earl Jones) and the true story-based Murder in Mississippi (1990), which won him an Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Mini-Series or Television Movie. He also co-starred as the long-lost son of a boss-con (played by Louis Gossett Jr.) in the dramatic television movie Father & Son: Dangerous Relations (1993). Additionally, he directed and starred as a self-proclaimed Jesus in his 30-minute indie film, The Second Coming (1992) and returned to the big screen in actor/director Mario Van Peebles' Western film Posse (1993), alongside Stephen Baldwin, Billy Zane, Big Daddy Kane and Isaac Hayes.
After his contract with "L.A. Law" ended in 1994, Underwood was cast opposite Sean Connery and Laurence Fishburne, playing a brainy, charming, but cold-blooded murderer and rapist in Arne Glimcher's adaptation of John Katzenbach's thriller novel, Just Cause (1995). From 1996 to 1997 (Season 2), he joined the ensemble cast of ABC’s cop drama "High Incident," playing Michael Rhoades. Meanwhile, he also portrayed outspoken baseball rookie and soon-to-be Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson in HBO's true story-based TV movie set in 1945, Soul of the Game (1996; alongside Delroy Lindo and Mykelti Williamson) and had a bit part as a geneticist in writer-director Andrew Niccol's Oscar-nominated sci-fi thriller Gattaca (1997; starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman). He also took the lead in Tim Reid's independent romantic suspense thriller Asunder (1998; also executive produced) and won an Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series for his turn as Willie, the troubled son of the title role (played by Cicely Tyson (older version) and Erika Alexander (younger version) in the TV-movie adaptation of Alex Haley's book, Mama Flora's Family (1998; also featuring Queen Latifah).
The new millennium saw Underwood play a featured role in William Friedkin's indie military and political drama, Rules of Engagement (starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones), and returning to a TV series with a co-starring role as Dr. Ben Turner on CBS' short-lived medical drama "City of Angels" (alongside Vivica A. Fox and Michael Warren). He then portrayed a rap tycoon in Christopher Scott Cherot's independent musical drama G (2002; released in movie theaters in 2005), which was loosely based on "The Great Gatsby," and teamed up with Catherine Keener, David Duchovny, Julia Roberts and Mary McCormack in Steven Soderbergh's ensemble comedy Full Frontal (2002), a film-within-a-film in which he played Calvin the TV star/actors' double. He was also seen in a TV commercial for Nationwide Insurance.
From 2003 to 2005, Underwood portrayed Dr. Robert Leeds, Miranda's (played by Cynthia Nixon) boyfriend in HBO's popular comedy/drama series based on the novel by Candace Bushnell, "Sex and the City." His performance was awarded two Image Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2004 and 2005.
During that time, Underwood was cast in John Whitesell's comedic feature film Malibu's Most Wanted (2003; starring Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson) and starred in NBC’s brief-running airport-set drama series "LAX," playing cocky terminal manager Roger De Souza. Heather Locklear, who played aggressive runway chief Harley Random in the series, once commented about Underwood, "He is beyond charismatic and quite the gentleman."
In 2006, Underwood became Sanaa Lathan's boyfriend Mark Harper in Sanaa Hamri's romantic drama comedy film Something New (also starring Simon Baker) and co-starred as Rochelle Aytes' abusive and controlling banker husband in Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion, a big screen version of Perry’s acclaimed play and sequel to Diary of a Mad Black Woman. TV viewers could also catch him in the TV movies Company Town (starring Sherry Stringfield and Michael Michele) and Covert One: The Hades Factor (opposite Stephen Dorff and Mira Sorvino), which was inspired by Robert Ludlum's thriller novel. He also had a recurring role, as Mr. Harris, in several episodes of CBS' sitcom starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine."
Recently, in January 2007, Underwood was spotted as a guest in an episode of NBC’s police procedural drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and in February, fans could listen to his voice in the unique war documentary, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience.
Underwood will co-star with Gabriel Byrne and Melissa George in HBO's upcoming psychological drama series "In Treatment" and will appear as himself in a documentary written and directed by Tegan Summer, Sixteen, which follows female juvenile offenders trying to re-integrate into society. Underwood, who has directed five music videos and a short, will sit in the director’s chair directing Ving Rhames in The Bridge to Nowhere, an indie crime drama about blue-collar men who collaborated with a penniless hooker to create an exclusive escort service. Being asked about the film, Underwood explained, "It's a morality tale. At the end of the day, this film is about four friends and the choices they make, both good and bad."
Besides acting and directing, Underwood is also active in a number of charitable organizations. He co-founded the non-profit organization Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA) in 1989, and won the 1993 Humanitarian Award for his support to the Los Angeles chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The next year, he was selected as the spokesman for the PATS (Parents, Teachers and Students) Foundation. He also became the spokesperson for YouthAIDS with Ashley Judd in 2003 and appeared in a public service announcement for The Fulfillment Fund the following year.
Image: Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, "City of Angels," 2001
Image: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series, Mama Flora's Family, 1999
Image: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, "L.A. Law," 1995
Image: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Mini-Series or Television Movie, Murder in Mississippi, 1992