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Blair  Underwood

Blair Underwood

Actor, Activist & Philanthropist

Biography

A charismatic and versatile actor, Blair Underwood has found success in television, on stage and screen, in the literary world, and in his personal life. His success has been shaped by the underlying belief that you must diversify yourself and remain as flexible as possible in order to achieve longevity in the acting business. Read More >

But an acting career spanning 30 years is only one facet of Underwood's wildly varied achievements — his forays into philanthropy, activism and advocacy for causes ranging from mental illness, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and HIV/AIDS has made him one of the most well-rounded and respected faces in Hollywood, Washington, D.C. and around the world.

Born in Tacoma, Washington to a United States Army colonel and an interior decorator mother who was eventually confined to a wheelchair, Underwood spent his childhood living on military bases around the U.S. and Germany, meeting an international mix of people that would come to shape his compassionate worldview and diverse career path. After early stints in Krush Groove, The Cosby Show and One Life to Live, Underwood hit his stride as an actor on the hit NBC series L.A. Law, where he played attorney Jonathan Rollins for seven seasons beginning in 1987.     

More TV work followed, including roles and appearances in HBO's Sex and the City and In Treatment, Dirty Sexy Money, The New Adventures of Old Christine and many other motion pictures and TV shows including Rules of Engagement, for which he won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Film. He made his feature directorial debut in the independent drama The Bridge to Nowhere, starring Danny Masterson, Bijou Phillips and Ving Rhames and appeared on Broadway as Stanley Kowalski in a revival of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, earning a Drama League Distinguished Performance Award nomination. He currently appears on television in a recurring role on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC.

Underwood's career as an award-winning entertainer — he has been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, won seven NAACP Image Awards and one GRAMMY Award — parallels his indefatigable work with numerous charitable organizations, where he has served in a variety of capacities, including leadership and mentorship roles. With Danny Glover, Mary Steenburgen and Alfre Woodard, he co-founded ANSA (Artists for a New South Africa) in support of a democratic South Africa, advocating equal rights and opportunities for all citizens. Through his work with AHF, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, he helped curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and provide medical care through awareness campaigns, including billboards featuring his likeness. For his AHF work, the organization named its new HIV/AIDS treatment clinic in Washington, D.C. after him.

But it is his close relationship with his mother, Marilyn, which underscores Underwood's sensitive and compassionate approach to caring and advocating for others — making him a compelling speaker on caregiving and overcoming family challenges. He is passionate about the importance of wellness and physical fitness, having witnessed his mother's health deteriorate in the wake of multiple sclerosis, diabetes and depression. Her health problems became his galvanizing force, inspiring forays into health advocacy and fundraising for causes including mental illness and diabetes.

He speaks candidly about his life and career, whether rising through the ranks as an actor, raising awareness for diabetes and obesity prevention, championing for HIV/AIDS treatment and caregiving to those nearest and dearest to him. A driving force in making positive changes in the world, Underwood believes you have to first practice being a leader in your family and community, in order to have that leadership flourish at work and in your personal life. In a career spanning 30 years, he has made a fine art of giving his all — and giving back.

Underwood earned his BFA from Carnegie-Mellon University. In addition to serving as an artist in residence at Harvard University, he holds two honorary doctorates from Boston's Emerson College and New Orleans' Xavier University. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Defining Your Dream

Blair Underwood has distinguished himself as an award-winning actor/director/producer who continues to showcase his many talents in the world of film, television, theatre and literature. His success has been driven by the underlying belief that, in order to achieve longevity in the acting business, you must diversify yourself and become as flexible as possible. Read More >

Sharing insights on how his own education influenced his life as well as noteworthy career, Underwood illustrates his experiences, many life challenges and journey to success to inspire audiences to pursue their dreams as they move forward to their career and life. He encourages people to seize the moment and recognize their accomplishments as a way to shape their futures — reminding them to always stay motivated to pursue their personal and professional goals, while constantly looking for even greater success. Read Less ^

Kids & Family

Diversity

From the Mountaintop to Hip-Hop

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