Blair Underwood talks about being “the token black guy”

April 1, 2020

Blair Underwood’s multi-faceted career spans more than 50 years and includes work in television, movies, and Broadway as an actor, director, and producer. But he’s purposefully accepted roles by learning to say “no” to those he believed portrayed his character as a “token.”

In a recent interview on Netflix’s podcast “Strong Black Lead,” Underwood recalled one TV show for which he initially rejected a role. It was “Sex and the City,” a show that presented progressive, forward-thinking topics … but still crossed the line with Underwood when it came to race. When the character of Samantha wanted to be with a black man simply because of her “racial curiosity,” Underwood politely declined the job by saying, “I’m not interested in being the Black curiosity, but thank you.” Two years later, Underwood accepted another role with this show because the “token” aspect was removed.

Seven years before Underwood was listed as one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in 2000, he won the 1993 Humanitarian Award presented by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Underwood’s view of himself far transcends his race. He wants people to know that “You’re going to be forced to deal with my humanity. It encompasses everything – not just your race, not just your gender, not just your profession, not just your nationality, but everything that you are.”

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