'L.A. Law' Star Blair Underwood Recalls How Steven Bochco Kept His Word
The actor, who currently stars on 'Quantico,' recalls the boss who kick-started his TV career: "Professionally, Steven had a profound impact on my career, but personally he taught me the value of an irreverent sense of humor, persistence, drive, vision and work ethic."
When I was a 21-year-old kid, I was cast in the part of Jonathan Rollins on L.A. Law. The casting breakdown said they wanted an actor, 24-26 years old, no younger, no older! I knew I was too young for the role.
Once I was cast, I figuratively held my breath until the first few episodes aired, thinking I could possibly be fired somewhere along the way, if the producers actually saw me on film and thought I looked too young. Even still, on the first day of shooting, Steven Bochco put his arm around me and said, “How’s it feel to know you have a home for the next five years?” That is music to any young actor's ears!
I entered L.A. Law at the beginning of their second season, so I knew I was walking into a bona fide hit TV show. I also knew that show business could be very fickle, so I never repeated those words Steven said to me, until after those five years had lapsed. He kept his word and I stayed on the show for a total of seven years, until its end.
After seven years of L.A. Law, I didn’t know that it would actually be our final season, but I felt very strongly that all of the possibilities for my character had been exhausted. I walked down to Steven’s office one day and we sat and talked. After much hesitation in trying to find the right words, he interrupted me and said, “It's time. I know...it’s time.”
But I remember saying to him that if I were to do another TV series, I would only want to do it with him and I think a show about an inner-city hospital would make a lot of sense. He told me that he’d already considered that concept but didn’t know if an audience would tune in to watch an all-black cast in a drama. His reservations may have been confirmed years later when he actually created that inner-city hospital drama called, City of Angels, that ran on CBS for only two years.
My second fondest memory of him was when he, again, kept his word and cast me in City of Angels, which represented my first starring vehicle in a television series.
Professionally Steven had a profound impact on my career, but personally he taught me the value of an irreverent sense of humor, persistence, drive, vision and work ethic.
After all that has and will be said, in the simplest and most profound of terms he was and will always be remembered as a ‘GOOD’ man.
I am honored and humbled to have crossed his path.