Why Blair Underwood Initially Passed On His Role in ‘Sex and the City’
Blair Underwood has been considered a sex symbol throughout his career, playing the character as a leading man in many films and television series. Despite his sex appeal, Underwood has made intentional decisions about the roles he accepts.
In Netflix’s Strong Black Lead series, Underwood discusses a few of his most notable roles and how he almost passed on two – specifically Sex and the City and Set It Off – due to feeling the characters were stereotypical representations of black men.
Blair Underwood was not interested in being part of “Black curiosity” in ‘Sex in the City’
Underwood surprised many by his ability to stand out in a series that revolved around women and friendship, particularly white women. Knowing the premise of the show, Underwood initially turned down a role on the series when he read the character description for the part he was offered.
“Kim Cattrell’s character wanted to be with a Black man and it was all about the curiosity. What’s it like to be with a Black man are the rumors true. And I said, ‘Thank you, but no thank you. I appreciate it and I’m honored,” he said. “And I mean that, I don’t take that lightly when people offer you a job. But I said, ‘I’m not interested in being the Black curiosity, but thank you.’”
Two years later, he was approached by casting again with a different role, one that he felt was more fitting. Though he would be playing a love interest of one of the characters, the new role was more about a connection between the two people versus race. Underwood was also sold on the character’s occupation: a doctor.
“I only did five episodes and they only mentioned it [race] once,” he explained. “Cuz it’s obvious. You don’t have to talk about the Black guys. It’s obvious what you are.”
Blair Underwood almost passed on his role in ‘Set It Off’ also
Sex in the City wasn’t the first role Underwood turned down. Another iconic role he’s known for was Set It Off, starring as Jada Pinkett Smith’s love interest. Underwood passed when the script was first presented due to already filming a project about the life of Jackie Robinson. He also was not sold on the idea of four women as bank robbers.
But after his agent convinced him to take another look at the script, he felt the role was too important for him to pass on.
“I saw the love story between Jada and Keith, the banker that I played. And I thought that was a nice balance. But I also understood the story they were telling about these four sisters, that is a love story that is of friendship and loyalty and being there for each other. And the fact that Jada and I were able to portray this Black love story in the midst of such chaos and he was her refuge out of this chaos. I’ve very proud of that film, to have been a part of it.”Netflix’s Strong Black Lead
Underwood said after making the mistake of not reading the script for Set It Off entirely the first go around, he never made the mistake again. He says that it’s one of the roles he’s most known for and he’s grateful for being part of it.