Some people are fly by night stars that shine brightly for a brief moment, then flame out. Actor Blair Underwood is not one of those people. Underwood has enjoyed a lengthy career, maybe because he’s so versatile. He’s played lawyers and doctors and boyfriends good and bad both on TV and in movies like “Set it Off” and “I Will Follow,” hot director Ava Duvernay’s debut.
Now he’s reprising the role of Ironside, originally played by Raymond Burr in the popular series from the 1970’s. Both are cops forced to do their job from a wheelchair, but technology has certainly changed things for the new Ironside. He drives and he remains as physically potent as before – in all areas.
“He’s gotta fight for truth, justice and the right to beat somebody down, “Underwood told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “But only the bad guys. Only the bad guys. Of course a lot of people remember the original ‘Ironside’ with Raymond Burr but in this version he’s edgier, and he’s in New York City which gives it a whole different flavor altogether. But at the end of the day, I feel it’s a great crime show.”
The original Ironside was located in San Francisco and actor Raymond Burr, who also portrayed TV’s Perry Mason, played the role for 8 seasons. Burr’s Ironside was tough but didn’t have much of a personal life; Underwood definitely does as seen in the first episode. Underwood says that portrayal is not unrealistic.
“My mother is disabled for about ten years now. [His mother, Marilyn, has multiple sclerosis]. The reality of spinal cord injury is that some can still perform in that way and some cannot. It’s not something we want to make light of on the show. We want to say that this is a part of his reality and part of some people’s reality. He loved women before the accident and he loves women after the accident.”
Underwood trained with David Bryant, who was disabled 30 years ago at the age of 19 in a skiing accident. He says he’s learned through his mother and Bryant that having a disability means something different for everyone.
“Our job as actors is to make it real, make it authentic. You’ll see things that you never saw Raymond Burr doing. Like David Bryant drives his own car using hand controls so Ironside drives his own van. There’s a lot of things that he and disabled people can do today that you wouldn’t see in the 60’s and 70’s.”
“Ironside’’ airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Watch the entire first episode below.