Blair Underwood: Hardest Working Man in H'wood

Underwood loves the history behind his character. "People have a chance to be educated and entertained at the same time," he said.

"Fans of the show recognize that it is a unique hybrid," said Wright. "The show has enough literacy and genuine emotion that it's a guilty pleasure you don't have to feel guilty about. Blair's performance is a perfect example of that. He's making all kinds of nasty things happen but doing so from within a character we've never seen before."

Fortunately, the role came to him. "He was my first choice," Wright said. "Blair is the perfect guy for it, so likable and charming. I knew when I wanted to find someone to play that character, I wanted to go against type and make him trustworthy and friendly. And the TV audience really trusts Blair."

This season, Wright said, viewers can expect Elder to cement his relationship with daughter Karen Darling (wedding bells?) as a way of getting a foothold into the Darlings' business empire and pursuing his goal of destroying the family.

In his 23rd year in show business -- his first recurring role was as Bobby Blue on the soap "One Life to Live" -- Underwood is not only more selective about the roles he chooses but he's expanded beyond acting in order to create more roles for himself.

"I made a decision a long time ago. If the opportunities come to me, that's great. If not, I'll create them," Underwood said.

Recently he released "In the Night of the Heat: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel," the second book in a series of erotic mystery novels that he created with novelists Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes.

The novel's main character, Hardwick, is a former gigolo and washed-up actor. Underwood got the idea for the character from a film project years ago that would have paired him with Diana Ross. Now, with the novels out, he's hoping to bring Hardwick to the screen at last.

"From the outset, we said, 'Let's create a novel and a movie at the same time,'" Underwood said.

If it's up to Underwood, it won't be through a Hollywood studio either. Underwood's first collaboration with Due, producing her novel "My Soul to Keep" as a film, has been stuck in development at a studio for six years.

Working outside the studio, he directed his first feature film called "The Bridge to Nowhere." No, it's not about Sarah Palin and Alaska. It's about four best friends who, at loose ends with their lives, start a high-class escort service and become successful. Underwood recently screened the film for several studios in hopes of selling it.

In "Bridge," Underwood stayed behind the camera. But his first love remains acting. Fortunately, his fans can see more of him on "Dirty Sexy Money."

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