Two–time Golden Globe nominee, Emmy, Grammy & seven-time NAACP Image Award recipient Blair Underwood has distinguished himself as an award-winning actor/director/producer who continues to showcase his multitude of talents across virtually all media.
In the spring of 2019, Underwood appeared as attorney Bobby Burns in Ava Duvernay’s critically acclaimed ‘four-part film,’ When They See Us. The Netflix film is about the 1989 Central Park jogger case. Later in 2019 Underwood will appear in the feature film, Bad Hair and the Netflix series, Dear White People, both created by Justin Simien. Earlier this year, Underwood was featured in two Netflix original films, the Stephanie Allain-produced Juanita, co-starring opposite Alfre Woodard, and Ian Edelman's The After Party.
In 2018, Underwood returned, for his second year, as Owen Hall, the charming and intelligent CIA officer every operative wishes he or she could be, on ABC’s Quantico.
The year 2017 was busy for Underwood. In addition to his duties on Quantico and the two feature films he completed, he also garnered terrific critical buzz for his powerful guest starring role as a father struck personally by gun violence in the final season of CBS’ The Good Wife. Underwood also narrated and executive produced the independent documentary Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, the story of the 18 young African-American athletes who traveled to Berlin for the 1936 Olympics amidst racism, both at home and in Nazi Germany. That documentary was released in several large markets in August of that year. The accompanying book, Olympic Pride American Prejudice, will be released in Feb. 2020, and will be Underwood’s sixth book published as a result of his publishing collaboration with Simon and Schuster.
Underwood’s 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. He co-starred in the Tyler Perry hit Madea’s Family Reunion and the romantic comedy Something New. He appeared 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.
On the television front, he received his second Golden Globe nomination for Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for his memorable role as an anguished fighter pilot on HBO’s groundbreaking drama In Treatment. Underwood is known for several high-profile television projects, including his NAACP Image Award-nominated role of Dr. Robert Leeds in Sex & the City, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Ironside, The Event, Dirty Sexy Money, The New Adventures of Old Christine and his seven-year run on LA LAW. Underwood starred in CBS’ top-rated 1998 dramatic miniseries, Mama Flora’s Family, which was based on Alex Haley’s final 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 again won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his starring role as a surgeon in Steven Bochco’s City of Angels. He has also starred in Showtime’s The Wishing Tree, TNT’s award-winning Heat Wave, and the CBS miniseries The Hades Factor.
As an actor, Underwood’s past several years have been punctuated by a return to the stage, most recently in an acclaimed turn at the famed Old Globe Theatre, in the title role of William Shakespeare’s Othello. In 2015, he starred in the world premiere of Paradise Blue at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, in the role of a brilliant and tormented trumpeter toiling away in a Detroit bar in the late 1940s. In 2014, Underwood garnered rave reviews opposite Cicely Tyson on stage (and in the subsequent Lifetime telefilm) revival of the Tony Award-winning play The Trip to Bountiful. The film portrayal earned him a Critics Choice Award nomination. In 2012, he made his acclaimed Broadway debut, in the iconic role of Stanley in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. The role earned him a 2012 Drama League Distinguished Performance Award nomination.
His past theater credits include his 2004 workshop/tour of his one-man show IM4: From the Mountaintop to Hip Hop. The play, which he created and conceived, was written by his brother Frank Underwood, and was 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 played eight characters in all. Other theater credits include the New York revival of the award-winning musical Purlie, 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.
Not content to be merely in front of the camera, Underwood made his feature directorial debut in 2007, with the independent drama Bridge to Nowhere. He’s directed groundbreaking projects like the 360° virtual reality concert video of the iconic thrash-metal band, Megadeth, for the release of their 2017 Dystopia album. The concert video went on to earn Underwood a silver Clio Award for innovation and Dystopia won the Grammy Award that year for Best Metal Performance.
Underwood is currently at work packaging his next directing vehicles, both genre thrillers Patch and Viral in which he will also star. As director, executive producer, writer and star of the dramatic short The Second Coming, Underwood played Jesus Christ returning to Earth. In 2018, because of its unprecedented, controversial and unconventional portrayal of Jesus, as a man of color, the film was inducted into the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington DC.
A principal in Intrepid Productions, Underwood is also focused on building a slate as a producer. He won a Daytime Emmy Award as Executive Producer of the NBC Saturday morning series, Give, a series which lives at the junction of entrepreneurship and philanthropy. He produced the TLC series Million Dollar Christmas alongside his producing partner, Tommy Morgan, Jr. The first season followed a group of lottery winners in St. Louis, MO – coworkers at a social services office – who went from their modest lifestyles to multimillionaire status. The viewer saw how their newfound fortune affected their lives for better or worse. Intrepid has several projects in development, including an hour-long drama at BET about an all black, female, law firm called Sister Code.
In fall 2005, Underwood published his first book, a non-fiction bestseller called Before I Got Here (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.). The book is a collection of stories and anecdotes from parents that speak to the existence of a child’s soul prior to birth. In 2007, he made his return to the literary world, co-authoring his first detective novel, Casanegra, with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. He collaborated with Due and Barnes on three subsequent novels: In The Night of the Heat, From Cape Town with Love and South by Southeast, all released by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. The detective series received rave reviews from both readers and critics.
In 2009, Underwood received an abundance of accolades, including a Grammy award for Best Spoken Word for former Vice President Al Gore’s album An Inconvenient Truth (read by Underwood, Beau Bridges and Cynthia Nixon). Underwood portrayed Jesus in the audio book The Bible Experience. Since its release in October 2006, it has become the No. 1 selling audio Bible in history.
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. In 2003, Underwood, along with Ashley Judd, served as a spokesperson for YouthAIDS. He is also co-founder of Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA). Founded in 1989 by members of the arts and entertainment community, ANSA is a nonprofit organization working in the U.S. and South Africa to combat HIV/AIDS, assist children orphaned by the disease, advance human and civil rights, educate and empower youth, and build bonds between our nations through arts, culture, and our shared pursuit of social justice.
On September 10, 2009, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the United States’ largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider, announced the grand opening of their first AIDS treatment center in Washington D.C. – and the facility was named after Underwood in recognition of his longtime advocacy in Africa & abroad. The AHF Blair Underwood Clinic includes a state-of-the-art, full service HIV/AIDS treatment clinic, as well as an on-site AHF Pharmacy. They recently celebrated their ten-year anniversary.
In addition to serving as an “Artist in Residence” at Harvard University in 2009, Underwood holds an earned BFA from Carnegie-Mellon University, and two honorary Doctorates from Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts; and Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Underwood is a newly minted member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.