Blair Underwood has built his acting career by being mindful of what each of his roles say about Black men. And after revealing he nearly passed on Set It Off earlier this year, the Self Made star also said he initially didn’t care to be one of the only Black guest stars of HBO’s iconic series, Sex and the City.
Underwood revealed on Netflix’s Strong Black Lead podcast that he was initially offered the role of the Black record executive, who had a sister that didn’t want him to date White women. Fans may recall the character was featured in the 2000 episode titled “No Ifs, Ands or Butts.”
“I said no first, two years prior, because there was an episode, if you know Sex and the City, the fast one, Kim Cattrell’s character [Samantha] wanted to be with a Black man and it was all about the curiosity,” Underwood recalled. “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.’ 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.’”
The show was one of his wife’s favorites so when they returned with another offer, to portray Miranda’s boyfriend, Dr. Robert Leeds, with a size-able character arc, he heard them out.
“So two years later, they came back and had an offer to come join the show. And I said, ‘Is it going to be about his race or is he going to be a human being?’ They said, ‘Naw, he’s a doctor that’s in her building who she meets in the elevator and they hit it off,’” Underwood said. “That was important.”
“I only did five episodes and they only mentioned it once because it’s obvious. You don’t have to talk about the Black guys. It’s obvious what you are,” he added.
Despite the show’s popularity, he still was not willing to alter his beliefs, the longtime actor said.
“Since the beginning of my career,” Underwood said, “[I always told my manager and agents,] I don’t want to be ‘the Black guy’ even though I was the token.”
“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.”