Blair Underwood: An Appreciation
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Although his big day is actually on Saturday, I think Blair Underwood is more than deserving of an early 48th birthday greeting, don’t you? After all, he has given us so much of himself over the years. From his performances in film, on television and on the stage to his literary work, humanitarian efforts and burgeoning fashion empire, he’s done seemingly everything, yet his presence is always welcome. Always.
Last month, I did a brief East Coast tour and made my way over to the Broadhurst Theatre to see A Streetcar Named Desire before the cast departs for their 16-week run in London.  Blair delivered a passionate performance, as usual. Watching him become the ever-complex Stanley Kowalski was quite an incredible, albeit intense, experience — so much so that when he removed his shirt during an emotionally charged moment, a woman seated in my row just hollered. Her outburst was a bit over-the-top, yes, but I knew where she was coming from. I mean, Blair is certainly easy on the eyes, but really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What I’ve always appreciated about Blair Underwood is how he flows. If you do a quick tally of his extensive list of credits, you’ll realize that he’s been on the radar since his breakout role on L.A. Law back in the late ’80s. That is not by coincidence. In fact, he credits a combination of faith and a focus on the long term for propelling him onward and upward. “I’ve always envisioned myself having longevity,” he’s said of charting his creative course.  “Some people say, ‘I want to be a star’ or ‘I want to make a million dollars,’ and that’s beautiful icing on the cake, but then you have to ask yourself, ‘What is the cake?’ For me, the cake is being able to work, with integrity, which is what I prayed for and worked toward.”
That philosophy continues to serve him, handsomely. Along with his screen roles — including Something New, Set It Off and In Treatment as well as Sex and the City, The Event and the independent feature Asunder, in which he was star and producer — the two-time Golden Globe nominee has also co-authored a four-part novel series, portrayed Jesus in the best-selling audiobook The Bible Experience, and contributed his talents to An Inconvenient Truth, for which he scored a Grammy Award for Best Spoken World Album. He’s also focusing on building his brand in the realm of fashion with his signature collection of men’s suits. Oh, and there’s also the new deal he’s just inked with NBC/Universal Television, which means that we’ll soon be seeing even more of Blair on the small screen.
When it comes to his work, he keeps on grinding and growing and expanding his reach, but he’s got a life, too. He’s a dedicated husband and dad of three — “I come from a close-knit family, so that was my template,” he’s noted about his home life — and remains committed to lending his time and energy to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, diabetes and mental health issues. Living such a rich, well-rounded existence could explain why he exudes such positive energy. Perhaps that’s also why he continues to maintain and looks so good, still.  That’s just my theory, of course.
So, Brother Blair, here’s to you as you as embark on your next Personal New Year.  Make sure to enjoy each moment and every slice of cake!
Regina R. Robertson is West Coast Editor of ESSENCE. Follow her on Twitter @reginarobertson.