Sheryl Jordan photo courtesy Central Virginia Film Institute
On Oscar night, award-winning actor Blair Underwood walked the ceremonial red carpet. He wasn't in Hollywood, though; he was in Petersburg taking part in Central Virginia Film Institute's Oscar Night America party.
Blair gained fame as Jonathan Rollins on the popular legal drama L.A. Law , a role that garnered him a Golden Globe nomination. You may also remember him from his roles in Dirty Sexy Money, LAX, City of Angels, and Sex and the City .
Recently, he's appeared as the hunky love interest of Julia Louis-Dreyfus in The New Adventures of Old Christine — no surprise here, as he was voted one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 2000 — and as a Navy fighter pilot for HBO's In Treatment . On May 18, he sets out to promote his latest detective novel, From Cape Town With Love . It is the third in a series created with authors Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes.
The Petersburg High School alum debuted his acting skills as a teen at both Swift Creek Mill Theatre in Finian's Rainbow and On the Twentieth Century and Theatre IV in West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar and Born Yesterday .
Q: When you think of Petersburg, what comes to mind?
A: The first thing that comes to mind is the humidity during the summer and a certain Southern hospitality that's different than New York or California. I also appreciate the sense of history.
Q: What do you remember most about being on stage at Swift Creek and Theatre IV?
A: The community of actors and performing artists that came out of Richmond and Colonial Heights. I see a lot of familiar faces from production to production. I'm honored to be a small part of that. Some of the actors such as Matthew Costello and Lynn West weighed in on Facebook. That was terrific.
Q: I believe you dressed in drag when you were at Petersburg High. What was that all about?
A: [ Laughs. ] I was president of student government my senior year, and we were trying to think what would keep people engaged, so we had a Powder Puff Pageant. All the football team came out for that.
Q: Tell me about the new book you have coming out on May 18.
A: I've produced a series of books with authors Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, who are incredible novelists. I approached them about creating a franchise brand. I wanted to create an entity that we all participate in. I helped create the character, Tennyson Hardwick.
Q: Do you have plans for the character beyond the print world?
A: We plan on also spinning the books into film. [Underwood will direct and star in the films when they are produced.] We're raising money now. I have been able to direct and shoot 60-second video vignettes that will accompany the digital version of the book. There will be more coming out, a total of 10 books.
Q: How does it feel to play the hunk on The New Adventures of Old Christine and Sex and the City ?
A: I've been called worse things than a hunk. [ Laughs. ] I take that with the smallest grain of sand possible. The upside is I have had the opportunity to play opposite some beautiful and talented actresses along the way.
Q: What was it like working with the cast of The New Adventures of Old Christine ?
A: They are extraordinarily talented. I hadn't done a lot of comedy. I am the straight man. Julia Louis-Dreyfus does all the comedic lifting. She is adorable.
Q: My editor wants to know if you have a portrait of yourself in the attic — referring, of course, to the Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray .
A: I love [your editor] for saying that. I am very flattered by that. It's my kids that keep me young. Yes, there is a portrait in the attic, and it's falling apart.
Q: What's next for you?
A: I'm closing a deal today for a new show, a pilot for a coming-of-age drama. I'm about to shoot a film, Homework , where I play a principal in high school. The film will have Freddie Highmore [ Finding Neverland, Astro Boy ] and Emma Roberts [ Hotel for Dogs, Valentine's Day ]. We will be shooting in New York.
Q: What's the one role you would really like to play?
A: Marvin Gaye. His life was both inspiring and tragic at the same time. He was a brilliant talent, but he also battled many demons personally.
Q: Will we ever see you strut your stuff on Dancing With the Stars ?
A: No. That's one of the very few shows along with American Idol that we can sit down and watch with our kids. I will continue to enjoy that as a spectator.