Blair Underwood

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Blair Underwood
Underwood in May 2019
Blair Erwin Underwood

(1964-08-25) August 25, 1964 (age 59)
EducationCarnegie Mellon University (BFA)
Years active1985–present
Desiree DaCosta[1]
(m. 1994; div. 2021)
Josie Hart
(m. 2023)

Blair Erwin Underwood[2] (born August 25, 1964) is an American actor. He made his debut in the 1985 musical film Krush Groove and from 1987 to 1994 starred as attorney Jonathan Rollins in the NBC legal drama series L.A. Law.

Underwood has appeared in a number of films during his career, including Just Cause (1995), Set It Off (1996), Deep Impact (1998), Rules of Engagement (2000), Something New (2006), Madea's Family Reunion (2006), and Juanita (2019). On television, he played a leading role in the 2000 medical drama City of Angels, and also had regular roles in High Incident (1996–97), LAX (2004–05), Dirty Sexy Money (2007–09), In Treatment (2008), The Event (2010–11), Ironside (2013) and Quantico (2016–18). Underwood has received two Golden Globe Award nominations, five NAACP Image Awards, one Daytime Emmy Award, and one Grammy Award.

Early life[edit]

Underwood was born in Tacoma, Washington, the son of Marilyn Ann Scales, an interior decorator, and Frank Eugene Underwood Sr., a United States Army colonel.[3][4][5] Underwood lived on bases and Army Posts in the United States and Stuttgart, Germany throughout his childhood due to his father's military career.[6] Blair attended Petersburg High School in Petersburg, Virginia.[7] He went on to attend the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is an honorary member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.


Underwood at the 41st Emmy Awards, September 1989

After his film debut, Krush Groove, Underwood's 1985 appearance on The Cosby Show landed him a short stint for three months on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live as Bobby Blue.[8] He later co-starred in the short-lived CBS crime drama series Downtown from 1986 to 1987, and guest-starred on Scarecrow and Mrs. King and 21 Jump Street.

In 1987, Underwood, at the age of 23, was cast as attorney Jonathan Rollins in the NBC legal drama series L.A. Law.[9] He received Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film in 1991. The series ended in 1994. In 1990, he played James Chaney in the NBC television film Murder in Mississippi. In 1993, he co-starred in the western film Posse starring Mario Van Peebles. After L.A. Law, he starred in a number of movies, In 1995 he appeared in the legal thriller Just Cause, and the following year played Jada Pinkett's love interest in the heist film Set It Off. He also had a supporting role as a geneticist in the science fiction film Gattaca (1997) and in the disaster film Deep Impact (1998). In 1996, he was featured in the July issue of erotic magazine Playgirl.[10]

In 1996, Underwood returned to series television with ABC police drama series, High Incident. He co-starred opposite Cicely Tyson in the 1998 miniseries Mama Flora's Family. In 2000, he played the lead role in the short-lived CBS medical drama series City of Angels. Underwood was voted one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 2000, and one of TV Guide magazine's "Most Influential Faces of the 90s".[11] In 2003, he guest starred in four episodes[6] on the HBO series Sex and the City playing Cynthia Nixon's love interest. In 2004, he played the role of Roger De Souza opposite Heather Locklear in NBC short-lived drama LAX.[12] In 2006, he appeared in the Tyler Perry's second film, Madea's Family Reunion. He had a recurring role as the sexy grade school teacher in the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus from 2006 to 2008. In 2007, he guest starred in an episode of the NBC series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.[13] In 2007, Underwood portrayed Jesus Christ in Inspired By... The Bible Experience, an 89-hour, celebrity-voiced, fully dramatized audio Bible based on Today's New International Version. Also in 2007, Underwood co-authored the novel Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel with husband-and-wife team Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due.

Underwood at the premiere for Earth in April 2009

In 2008, Underwood starred in the first season of the HBO drama series In Treatment, for which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film at the 2009 Golden Globes.[14] From 2007 to 2009, he was regular cast member in the ABC prime time soap opera, Dirty Sexy Money.

In 2010–2011, Underwood portrayed United States President Elias Martinez in the NBC drama series The Event.[15][16] In 2010, Underwood portrayed the role of Saint Mark in The Truth & Life Dramatized Audio New Testament Bible, a 22-hour, celebrity-voiced, fully dramatized audio New Testament, based on the RSV-CE translation. In 2012, he played the lead role of Stanley in the Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.[17]

In 2013, Underwood played the role of Robert Ironside in the remake of the successful 1960s television series, Ironside, made famous by the late Raymond Burr.[18] The show was cancelled after three episodes.[19][20] The following year, he appeared in The Trip to Bountiful opposite Cicely Tyson. From 2015 to 2016, he had a recurring role in the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In 2016, Underwood was cast in the ABC thriller series Quantico for the series regular role of CIA Deputy Director, Owen Hall.[21] The series was canceled after three seasons in 2018.

In 2019, Underwood played attorney Bobby Burns in the Netflix miniseries When They See Us.[22] The following year, he co-starred opposite Octavia Spencer in the Netflix miniseries Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.[23] Underwood has been a frequent guest narrator at Disney's Candlelight Processional, narrating the event in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2021.[24]

In January 2020, Underwood appeared on stage as Captain Richard Davenport in the Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway revival of Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama A Soldier's Play.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Underwood is a part of several charitable organizations. He won the 1993 Humanitarian Award for his work with the Los Angeles chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In 2003, along with Ashley Judd, he served as the spokesperson for YouthAIDS. In addition, he is involved with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Blair Underwood Clinic in Washington, DC.[26]

On June 24, 2023 he married his longtime friend, Josie Hart.[27]

Underwood also appeared in a 2004 public service announcement for The Fulfillment Fund.[28] He is a Trustee for the Robey Theatre Company in Los Angeles, a non-profit theatre group founded by Danny Glover, focusing on plays about the Black experience.

He supported President Barack Obama's candidacy and spoke at campaign rallies for him. Underwood got to know former President Obama while researching his L.A. Law role at Harvard Law School, while the would-be President Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review.[29]



Year Title Role Notes
1985 Krush Groove Russell Walker
1992 The Second Coming Jesus Short
1993 Posse Sheriff Carver
1995 Just Cause Bobby Earl Ferguson
1996 Set It Off Keith Weston
1997 Gattaca Geneticist
1998 Sister I'm Sorry Himself Short
Deep Impact Mark Simon
1999 Asunder Chance Williams
The Wishing Tree "Magic Man"
2000 Rules of Engagement Captain Lee, USMC
2002 Truth Be Told Detective Harris
G Chip Hightower
Full Frontal Calvin / Nicholas
2003 Malibu's Most Wanted Tom Gibbons
2004 Fronterz Unknown
Do Geese See God? Man
2005 The Golden Blaze Gregory Fletcher/The Golden Blaze (voice)
2006 Something New Mark Harper
Madea's Family Reunion Carlos
Company Town Tom Wilson Short
2007 The Hit Hen
2009 Weather Girl Weather Girl
2010 From Cape Town with Love Tennyson Hardwick Short
I Will Follow Evan
2011 The Art of Getting By Principal Bill Martinson
2012 Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day David Ames
2018 The After Party Sergeant Martin Ellison
2019 Juanita Himself
2020 Bad Hair Amos Bludso
Really Love Jerome Richmond
2023 Origin Amari [30]
2024 Longlegs Completed[31]
TBA Viral Andrew Also director[32]
TBA One Spoon of Chocolate TBA Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Knight Rider Potts Episode: "Knight of the Juggernaut: Part 1"
The Cosby Show Denise's Friend/Mark Guest cast (season 1–2)
One Life to Live Bobby Blue Regular cast
1986 Soul Train Himself Episode: "Melba Moore/Freddie Jackson/Beau Williams"
1986–87 Downtown Terry Corsaro Main cast
1987 Scarecrow and Mrs. King Stillman Episode: "All That Glitters"
21 Jump Street Reginald Brooks Episode: "Gotta Finish the Riff"
1987–94 L.A. Law Jonathan Rollins Main cast (season 2–8)
1988 Mickey's 60th Birthday Johnathon Rollins TV movie
1989 The Cover Girl and the Cop Horace Bouchet TV movie
1990 Murder in Mississippi James Chaney TV movie
Heat Wave Robert Richardson TV movie
Rose Parade Himself/Co-Host Main co-host
1991 Showtime at the Apollo Himself/Co-Host Episode: "Episode #5.9"
Sesame Street Himself Episode: "Episode #23.7"
A Different World Zelmer Collier Episode: "War and Peace"
American Experience Lewis Douglass Episode: "The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry"
1993 Father & Son: Dangerous Relations Jared Williams TV movie
1994 ABC Afterschool Special Himself Episode: "I Hate the Way I Look"
1996 Soul of the Game Jackie Robinson TV movie
Mistrial Lieutenant C. Hodges TV movie
Duckman Himself (voice) Episode: "Pig Amok"
1996–97 High Incident Officer Michael Rhoades Main cast (season 2)
1997 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child King Midas (voice) Episode: "King Midas and the Golden Touch"
1998 Mama Flora's Family Willie Episode: "Part 1 & 2"
1999 NAACP Image Awards Himself/Co-Host Main co-host
2000 Linc's Himself Episode: "A Dry White Season"
City of Angels Dr. Ben Turner Main cast
2001 Biography Himself Episode: "Kim Fields: A Little Somethin' Somethin'"
Great Performances Himself/Narrator Episode: "Free to Dance"
2002 Inside TV Land Himself Episode: "Inside TV Land: African Americans in Television – Variety"
2003 The Jamie Kennedy Experiment Himself 2 episodes
2003–04 Sex and the City Dr. Robert Leeds Recurring cast (season 6)
2004 TV Land's Top Ten Himself Episode: "Top 10 TV Cars"
2004–05 LAX Roger De Souza Main cast
Fatherhood Dr. Arthur Bindlebeep (voice) Main cast
2005 Half & Half Himself Episode: "The Big Pomp & Circumstance Episode"
2006–10 The New Adventures of Old Christine Daniel Harris Recurring cast (season 2–3), guest (season 5)
2006 Covert One: The Hades Factor Palmer Addison Episode: "Part 1 & 2"
2007 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Miles Sennett Episode: "Burned"
2007–09 Dirty Sexy Money Simon Elder Main cast
2008 In Treatment Alex Recurring cast (season 1)
2010–11 The Event President Elias Martinez Main cast
2011 Vietnam in HD Charles J. Brown Main cast
2012 Unsung Himself Episode: "Full Force"
Who Do You Think You Are? Himself Episode: "Blair Underwood"
Superman of Tokyo Superman of Tokyo Episode: "Part 1 & 2"
2012–13 The Secret Millionaire Himself/Narrator Main narrator
2013 Thunder and Lightning Black Lightning Recurring cast (season 1)
Ironside Robert Ironside Main cast
2014 The Trip to Bountiful Ludie Watts TV movie
2015 Jake and the Never Land Pirates Captain Wraith (voice) Recurring cast (season 4)
2016 Against the Odds Himself/Narrator Main narrator
Unsung Hollywood Himself Episode: "Tim Reid"
The Good Wife Harry Dargis Episode: "Shoot"
Sofia the First Sir Jaxon (voice) Episode: "The Secret Library: The Tale of the Noble Knight"
2015–16 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Andrew Garner Recurring cast (season 2-3)
2016–18 Quantico Owen Hall Main cast (season 2–3)
2016–19 The Lion Guard Makuu (voice) Recurring cast (season 1–2), guest (season 3)
2017 Give Himself Episode: "Give to Veterans Who Are Adjusting to Life After Service"
2019 When They See Us Bobby Burns Episode: "Part 2 & 4"
Dear White People Professor Moses Brown Recurring cast (season 3)
2020 Self Made Charles James Walker Main cast
Your Honor Roland Carter Episode: "Part One"
2021 Independent Lens Himself/Narrator Episode: "Mr. Soul!"
Impeachment: American Crime Story Vernon Jordan Recurring cast
Love Life Leon Hines Episode: "Suzanné Hayward & Leon Hines"
2023 Black Pop: Celebrating the Power of Black Culture Himself Recurring guest
See It Loud: The History of Black Television Himself Recurring guest
2024 Elsbeth Cliff McGrath Episode: "Ball Girl"
Three Women Richard


Year Title
1998 Men of Alaye: The Hottest Black Men in America
2006 Wilder: An American First
2007 Operation Homecoming
2008 Barack Obama: Who Is This Guy?
2009 President Barack Obama: The Man and His Journey
2011 First Generation
2012 It's a Hard Act to Follow
2016 Olympic Pride, American Prejudice
2018 Mr. Soul!
2020 Penguins: Life on the Edge
2022 Bear Witness

Music videos[edit]

Year Artist Song
1989 Michael Jackson "Liberian Girl"
2007 Joe "If I Was Your Man"

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2008 The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon Hunter Voice role


  • Before I Got Here: The Wondrous Things We Hear When We Listen to the Souls of Our Children (2005; editor, with Donyell Kennedy-McCullough (photographer))
  • The Tennyson Hardwick Novels:
    • Casanegra[33] (2007; with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes)
    • In the Night of the Heat (2008; with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes)
    • From Cape Town with Love (2010; with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes)
    • South by Southeast (scheduled for September 2012; with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1991 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film L.A. Law Nominated
1992 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Murder in Mississippi Won
1995 Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series L.A. Law Won
1997 Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Soul of the Game Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Set It Off Nominated
1999 Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Mama Flora's Family Won
2001 Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series City of Angels Won
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Rules of Engagement Won
2004 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Sex and the City Nominated
2005 Nominated
2007 Audie Awards Audiobook of the Year The Bible Experience (New Testament) Won
2008 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series The New Adventures of Old Christine Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Dirty Sexy Money Nominated
Audie Awards Audiobook of the Year The Bible Experience (Old Testament) Nominated
Inspirational/Spiritual Won
Multi-Voiced Performance
2009 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film In Treatment Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Spoken Word Album An Inconvenient Truth Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series In Treatment Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series The New Adventures of Old Christine Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Dirty Sexy Money Nominated
2010 Audie Awards Audiobook of the Year Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales Won
Multi-Voiced Performance
2011 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series The Event Nominated
2014 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries The Trip to Bountiful Nominated
2015 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Won
2020 Tony Awards Best Actor in a Play A Soldier's Play Nominated


  1. ^ Willis, Kim (May 31, 2021). "'A beautiful journey': Blair Underwood, Desiree DaCosta reveal split after 27 years of marriage". USA Today. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
  2. ^ The second coming. Artist: Jerry LaCroix, sound recording by Phonogram, Inc, The grains of paradise Archived March 13, 2020, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on August 25, 2013.
  3. ^ Blair Underwood Biography (1964–). Retrieved on August 25, 2013.
  4. ^ Brennan, Patricia (August 6, 1989). "Blair Underwood; 'Common Sense' Career Moves".
  5. ^ Stated on Who Do You Think You Are?, February 24, 2012
  6. ^ a b "NPR". A Conversation with Blair Underwood. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
  7. ^ "Blair Underwood back at Petersburg High School". The Progress Index.
  8. ^ "Blair Underwood thanks OLTL's Erika Slezak for his primetime career".
  9. ^ Roots, Kimberly (January 19, 2017). "Blair Underwood Recalls L.A. Law EP's Prediction on His First Day on the Job".
  10. ^ Pelley, Rich (October 15, 2010). "One last thing... Blair Underwood". The Guardian – via
  11. ^ "". Biography for Blair Underwood. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
  12. ^ "Yahoo Movies". Blair Underwood Biography. Archived from the original on May 16, 2006. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
  13. ^ "MovieWeb". NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit January Guest Star Appearances. Archived from the original on January 9, 2007. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
  14. ^ "TV's 'Treatment' up for 5 Golden Globes". Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  15. ^ "NBC Picks Up Three New Series for 2010–11 Season with 'The Event', 'Outsourced' and 'Love Bites'". The Futon Critic. May 7, 2010. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  16. ^ Hibberd, James (May 16, 2010). "NBC's fall schedule, upfront revealed". The Hollywood Reporter. The Live Feed. Archived from the original on May 18, 2010. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  17. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "A Streetcar Named Desire, With Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker, Extends Broadway Run". Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  18. ^ Harnick, Chris (May 13, 2013). "'Ironside': Blair Underwood Says Don't Call It A Remake". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  19. ^ "'Ironside' is NBC's lowest-rated fall drama debut ever".
  20. ^ Levin, Gary (October 18, 2013). "NBC yanks 'Ironside,' sets 'Community' return". USA Today.
  21. ^ Ausiello, Michael (July 5, 2016). "Quantico: Blair Underwood Joins Season 2 Cast as Series Regular". Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  22. ^ Grant, Andre (May 31, 2019). "Cassius Chats: Blair Underwood believes there is hope for us yet". Cassius Life. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  23. ^ "The Real Story Of Madam C.J. Walker's Marriage Is So Much Juicier Than In 'Self Made'". Bustle. March 24, 2020.
  24. ^ DisneyParks.Com Blair Underwood Thrilled To Narrate accessed 08-20-23
  25. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (January 22, 2020). "'A Soldier's Play': Theater Review". Variety. Variety Media, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  26. ^ "AIDS Healthcare Foundation". Archived from the original on February 23, 2013.
  27. ^ "Blair Underwood Marries Longtime Friend Josie Hart in an Intimate Wedding: 'It Was Surreal and Magical'". Peoplemag. Retrieved June 27, 2023.
  28. ^ "". Difference. Archived from the original on March 19, 2006. Retrieved January 7, 2007.
  29. ^ Kantor, Jodi (January 28, 2007). "In Law School, Obama Found Political Voice". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2008.
  30. ^ Grobar, Matt (February 21, 2023). "Ava DuVernay's 'Caste' Adds Blair Underwood, Victoria Pedretti, Finn Wittrock, Others". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  31. ^ Grobar, Matt (March 6, 2023). "Alicia Witt & Blair Underwood Join Nicolas Cage, Maika Monroe In Longlegs Horror-Thriller". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  32. ^ Pedersen, Erik (May 3, 2021). "Blair Underwood To Star In & Direct Indie Thriller 'Viral'; Joe McClean Scripting & Producing". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 10, 2024.
  33. ^ Casanegra Archived February 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. August 2007.

External links[edit]