The role of our favorite Harvard-educated bank manager—Keith Weston in Set it Off—almost went to someone other than Blair Underwood.
Underwood said on Sirius XM’s The Clay Cane Show that when the 1996 cult classic’s script landed in his lap, he was playing Jackie Robinson in HBO’s Soul of the Game, which he called “a noble project.”
After reading about 18 pages, including the scene where Stony (Jada Pinkett Smith) slept with Nate (Charles Robinson) to get her brother into college, Underwood initially passed on being in the drama. But when the team circled back to ask why he passed on the plum role, the 55-year-old actor admitted that he didn’t read the entire script.
“My manager read me the riot act when I told her,” Underwood told Cane. “She said, ‘Boy, you better finish reading the script before you be passing on things.’”
It was a lesson he would never forget. When Underwood took a beat to read the script, he saw Stony and Keith’s love story and the “platonic love story between these four women.”
Underwood, who’s currently starring in A Soldier’s Play alongside David Allen Grier on Broadway, also recalled that by the mid-’90s Blacks audiences were fatigued by certain movies.
“There was push back at Hollywood because Boyz ’n the Hood had come out, Menace II Society and there were voices that didn’t want to see us only as gangster films. And people would dismiss us initially when we’re shooting the film [like], ‘Okay, now we’re going to do Girlz ’n the Hood’.”
But Underwood trusted director F. Gary Gray’s vision and the actors’ performances.
“I very much wanted to be a part of that, so I have fond memories,” he said.
According to Box Office Mojo, Set It Off’s budget was$9 million and grossed 42 million worldwide.