|Actor, Director, Producer, Below The Line|
|August 25, 1964|
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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- ). He spent a season on "Dirty Sexy Money" (ABC, 2007- ), a soap-like drama about a wealthy family of ne'er do wells, and enjoyed success on HBO's "In Treatment" (2007-), an hour-long drama about a psychotherapist in which Underwood played a fighter pilot trying to overcome trauma suffered on the job. In 2008, Underwood was inundated with accolades, including a Golden Globe nomination for his powerful characterization on "In Treatment" and a pair of Image Award nominations for "Dirty Sexy Money" and "The New Adventures of Old Christine."