Blair Underwood Retools 'Ironside'

Former 'L.A. Law' Actor Brings Classic Show Back to TV

Stacy M. Brown | 10/16/2013, 3 p.m.
When someone playfully teased Blair Underwood about his remake of the iconic television show, “Ironside,” the actor channeled his inner ...

When someone playfully teased Blair Underwood about his remake of the iconic television show, “Ironside,” the actor channeled his inner LL Cool J, who famously rapped, “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”

“It’s not a remake,” said Underwood, 49. “It’s re-imagined.”

The former “L.A. Law,” actor, who has appeared in such big screen films as, “Just Cause,” “Deep Impact,” and “Set It Off,” said while homage to the late Raymond Burr must be paid, he’s updated the role of the paraplegic detective, Robert T. Ironside, who, despite his disability, still strikes fear in the hearts of many a bad guy.

“I think the style of storytelling in television, certainly in crime dramas, has changed greatly since the 1960s,” Underwood said.

The Tacoma, Wash., native, said his show maintains the integrity of and lends further insight into Burr’s version of Ironside, which originally aired on NBC from 1967 to 1975.

“We really get into the psychology and the emotional aspects of this man, which are directly linked to his disability and the accident that happened. It’s a tremendous hurdle and journey,” Underwood said.

Still, Underwood reiterated that he has good reason not to refer to the new series, which airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m., on NBC, as a remake.

“I don’t say remake, because Raymond Burr was so incredible, and it had been done and made so wonderfully,” he said.

There’s also a difference in where all the crime takes place. Burr’s “Ironside” took place in San Francisco while Underwood takes on thugs in the Big Apple.

“It’s edgier, grittier,” he said, regarding the hustle and bustle of New York.

Throughout the show, there are flashbacks to Ironside’s life before he took a bullet in his spine which paralyzed him from the waist down.

Following the shooting, Ironside swears he will never let a wheelchair slow him down. Undeterred by his paralysis, he drives his elite, hand-picked team, including Virgil (played by Pablo Schreiber), Holly (Spencer Grammer) and Teddy (Neal Bledsoe), to solve the city’s most difficult and notorious crimes.

Danny Glover, of “Lethal Weapon,” fame, plays Ironside’s father, who dispenses regular advice to his detective son.

Ironside’s boss at police headquarters, Capt. Ed Rollins (Kenneth Choi), proves a powerful supporter of the determined detective, backing him on many of the unconventional crime solving tactics Underwood’s character employs.

“I actually liked the show quite a bit,” said Marisa Roffman, managing editor for the television industry website, givememyremote.com.

“I’m more likely to give procedurals a chance, but I need a few things from procedural pilots: a good case, and a compelling character or group of characters to get attached to. Blair Underwood absolutely is the best reason to tune into the pilot as he completely owns the role,” Roffman said.

Underwood has earned his share of accolades. He’s distinguished himself as an award-winning actor, director, and producer.

Nominated in 2008 for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a Navy fighter in HBO’s, “Treatment,” Underwood also starred in the drama, “Dirty Sexy Money,” and enjoyed a recurring role in “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”