Blair Underwood might be recognized by Sex and the City fans for his role as Dr. Robert Leeds, one of Miranda’s boyfriends. But fans might not know that he initially turned down a role on the show because it was exploitative.
On Netflix’s Strong Black Lead podcast, Underwood was offered a role as a Black record exec who had a sister who didn’t want him dating white women.
“I said no first, two years prior, because there was an episode [where]…Kim Cattrell’s character [Samantha] wanted to be with a Black man and it was all about curiosity,” he said. “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.'”
They came around again to Underwood two years later to offer him the role he would eventually take, one with a large arc and substance.
“…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 [Miranda’s] building who she meets in an elevator and they hit it off.’ That was important,” Underwood said.
The humanizing role, plus the fact that Sex and the City was one of his wife’s favorite shows, he took the job.
Despite its popularity, Sex and the City has been criticized for its inability to properly showcase diversity, and the role Underwood was initially offered seems to provide proof for the criticism. However, thanks to Underwood’s commitment to being offered roles that show a more complete version of the Black experience, he was able to make the series bend in a small way towards racial equity.
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