Actor, Director Blair Underwood Inspires Local Artist

Blair Underwood (left) encouraged director Darius Johnson, CEO of Flac City Paparazzi, in his career and with his TV reality show “The Bay Wives” during the actor’s visit to the Bay Area this month. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

By Ashley Chambers Actor Blair Underwood is renowned for his compelling and sometimes mysterious roles in both film and television. He is admired for his debonair, confidence, and style. He has won many accolades over the course of his career, among them Golden Globe nominations, a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, NAACP Awards, and most recently the Bronner Brothers 2013 ICON Man of Style Award. With all of his personal success, Underwood remains a dedicated advocate for the community, reaching out to Richmond Police Athletic League and the James Morehouse Project at El Cerrito High School. The actor also supports rising local artists, like director and Academy of Art film student Darius Johnson, helping to open doors for talented newcomers. Johnson recalls having the opportunity to work with Underwood at the actor’s fundraiser, the Red Carpet Experience, held at the Richmond Craneway Pavilion in 2011, shooting the fashion show for his class project. “It was big for me because a lot of people from the community didn’t know about the event. I showed [Blair] my work, I shot the event, and he was happy with the outcome,” said Johnson, CEO of Flac City Paparazzi. “For me, it was like an exclusive event because I was kind of the only one that had that footage. I was able to capture celebrities, and a lot of people started to pay attention to my work from that.” Gaining that exposure helped propel Johnson’s career to another level and encouraged him in the pursuit of his craft. Now, he is directing a new reality show, “The Bay Wives,” which reveals the hustle of everyday women. “After doing that event, it helped me open me up to companies like Home Depot and pitch to bigger people than just artists and musicians. I try to stay on a different kind of path as far as political, youth, as opposed to just rap concerts – that was my shift, the caliber of people,” Johnson said. Reconnecting with Underwood during his visit to the Bay Area promoting his “BU” spring collection at K&G stores, Johnson was inspired by the actor who showed support for his TV show. “I really admire him for what he’s doing, because you don’t see a lot of successful African Americans coming back to the Bay Area,” Johnson said about Underwood, who received the Thurgood Marshall Man of the Year Award in 2012. “Its tremendous how he gives back,” Johnson said. “He’s all about community.”