Eighties action series ‘The Equalizer’ is back this year. And there’s a new lead, actress and musician Queen Latifah. CBS have released an action-packed trailer for the reboot, which is set to debut after the Superbowl on Feb 7th.
Latifah plays Robyn McCall, described by ComingSoon.net as “an enigmatic figure who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn.” The basic premise of an ex-government agent protecting the public appears to be in place.
While classic series lead Edward Woodward had his fair share of scrapes as Robert McCall, the new Equalizer looks to be more hands on. Assorted opponents are brutally dispatched, with Queen Latifah portrayed as almost a one person army.
The concept is also brought firmly into 21st century, with McCall also running a charity and giving inspirational advice to a black teenager.
— The Equalizer (@TheEqualizerCBS) January 18, 2021
Queen Latifah has a co-creator credit alongside Richard Lindheim, who brought the Woodward version to the screen with Michael Sloan. Lindheim sadly passed away recently aged 81.
Showrunners are Terri Miller and Andrew W. Marlowe. Both worked extensively on ‘Castle’. Miller spoke enthusiastically about Queen Latifah’s casting in a promotional video from last year: “She’s bad ass, she’s funny, she can be the person that people can trust.”
The concept was previously reworked as two movies starring Denzel Washington in 2014 and 2018 respectively. It seems no more will be made, though coincidentally Washington appeared ‘The Queen Latifah Show’ in 2014 to talk about the first film. During the interview, she referred to the original program as “a phenomenon”.
Speaking to CBS, the new Equalizer revealed her decision to play McCall was a no brainer: “This is one of the only jobs I’ve ever taken in my life when someone asked me the question one time, and I said ‘Yes’ immediately.” Queen Latifah’s company Flavor Unit Entertainment is behind the production.
The supporting cast includes ‘Sex and the City’/’Doctor Who’ star Chris Noth as former spook and McCall’s helper William Bishop. Lorraine Toussaint plays family member “Aunt Fry” and Adam Goldberg is tech expert Harry Keshegian.
Lindheim and Sloan first made ‘The Equalizer’ between 1985-89. Highly popular, the show was also something of an oddity. Instead of choosing a hard-boiled American actor to roam the mean streets of New York, the creators contacted English thespian Edward Woodward.
Woodward played his fair share of tough guys. But his McCall was liable to give villains a stern ticking off in addition to any rough justice. Lindheim and Sloan were fans of Woodward’s starring role in ‘Callan’ (1967 – 72), leading to the unorthodox but successful casting. In 1986 he won a Golden Globe for his performance.
Health problems affected him during the filming of Season 3 – no less a replacement than Robert Mitchum stepped in to play a new character as Woodward recuperated. The actor also mentioned people would stop him on the street to ask for his assistance, believing him to be Robert McCall.
Reaction to Queen Latifah’s involvement has been positive. Though as with any major change to an established brand, naysayers have nayed. Website Pajiba writes about the negative response from some quarters on social media.
These partly relate to the actress’s age. The piece points out other veteran stars have performed action roles and not received the same level of attention. “Denzel Washington was 60 years old when he starred in the film adaptation of The Equalizer and was 64 by the time he starred in The Equalizer 2” Pajiba notes. And with all due respect, he’s significantly older than Queen Latifah…!
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Ultimately the proof of the pudding lies in the reboot itself. Will ‘The Equalizer’ 2021 be a half-baked attempt to trade on an old name? Or is it serving up something fresh and delicious? The verdict lands in a matter of weeks…