*The wait is finally over.
Blair Underwood literally rolls back into primetime Wednesday night with the premiere of “Ironside,” an update of the NBC cop drama that aired from 1967 through 1975. Raymond Burr played the paraplegic Chief of Detectives, Robert T. Ironside.
Underwood has nicknamed his version Bobby T. In the pilot, viewers encounter him two years after a gunshot wound in a botched attempt to catch a suspect put him in a wheelchair. It’s one of several differences from the original series, as Burr’s Ironside was shot by a sniper. Also, the update takes place in San Francisco, not New York.
And then, there’s the difference of Ironside’s sex life. Unlike Burr’s character, Bobby T has one…a rather active one that took Underwood by surprise.
“When I read the script, there was that scene in there, and I said, ‘Well, how?’ And what you learn is every spinal cord injury is different,” he told us at the TCA Summer Press Tour. “If you haven’t seen a documentary called ‘Murder Ball,’ please check it out. ‘Murder Ball’ is considered the rugby of wheelchairs. I mean, these guys, just talk about badass. They’re just banging into each other, crashing into each other, and each one of those guys has able bodied girlfriends, and each one of them is able to perform in that way, but it is a question people ask. Is that just TV, or is that possible?
“So, yes, in Ironside’s case, he is able. He’s paralyzed at T 12, from the waist down. Even though he’s from the waist down, it depends on the nerve endings, and he is able to. And he’s about that.”
“Ironside” marks the 49-year-old actor’s fourth series for NBC (after “L.A. Law,” “LAX” and “The Event”) as well as back-to-back roles in which Underwood takes on iconic characters made famous by white actors. Before “Ironside,” he starred in a Broadway revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” portraying the role of Stanley Kowalski, made famous by Marlon Brando.
It’s the ultimate example of colorblind casting on a resume that also includes love interest roles opposite Sarah Jessica Parker in “Sex in the City” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
Below, Underwood explains how he’s been able to keep himself from being racially pigeonholed in Hollywood.
“Ironside” premieres Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 10 p.m. on NBC.
If you can’t wait till then, watch the pilot in its entirety below.