The Equalizer’s Queen Latifah: TV Reboot Goes “Different Direction” From Denzel Washington Movies

Multi-hyphenate Queen Latifah says Denzel Washington's Equalizer movie franchise gave The [...]

Multi-hyphenate Queen Latifah says Denzel Washington's Equalizer movie franchise gave The Equalizer's television reboot room to go a "completely different direction." In The Equalizer, which premiered Sunday on CBS immediately following Super Bowl LV, star and producer Latifah plays Robyn McCall, an enigmatic former CIA operative-turned-vigilante. Like Washington and Edward Woodward, who originated the Robert McCall role in the classic series that aired 88 episodes between 1985 and 1989 on CBS, Latifah's McCall uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn.

"I am absolutely excited and love the fact that Denzel made this a relevant product again because I did watch the original series as a kid," Latifah said during the virtual during the Television Critics' Association winter press tour. "What Denzel did with the feature films has been incredible. If anything, he set a bar in a way but also gave us a lot of room to go a completely different direction."

Acknowledging her "utmost respect" for Washington and the Antoine Fuqua-directed feature films released in 2014 and 2018, Latifah said the re-imagined Equalizer is less dark than the R-rated films and more like the original TV series.

"We knew we could tell this story from Queen Latifah's perspective and a Black woman's perspective in America, who is a parent," Latifah said. "We have a different sort of setup for this story that we can tell week in and week out. She faces a different set of circumstances."

Producers created the reboot specifically for the Oscar-nominated Latifah, also a producer behind FOX musical drama Star and MTV's Scream: The TV Series.

"Robyn McCall was developed as a Black woman … we said, 'No, we're going to make her a Black woman, not just a woman who happens to be Black,'" said executive producer Debra Martin Chase. "It's been a lot of honesty that has gone into creating this show. And I hope it shows. I think it shows."

Latifah's leading role makes her just the fourth Black woman to headline an hour-long network drama, behind Teresa Graves (Get Christie Love!), Kerry Washington (Scandal), and Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder).

Joining Robyn in her fight for justice are William Bishop (The Good Wife's Chris North), her former CIA handler and longtime friend; "edgy bar owner" Melody 'Mel' Bayani (Nancy Drew's Liza Lapira), a colleague from Robyn's past; and Harry Keshegian (God Friended Me's Adam Goldberg), a "paranoid and brilliant white-hat hacker."

Robyn keeps her role as a crime-fighter secret from daughter Delilah (Raven's Home's Laya DeLeon Hayes) and her Aunt Vi (Orange Is the New Black's Lorraine Toussaint), who helps Robyn balance life as a vigilante and a working mother.

McCall presents to most as an average single mom who is quietly raising her teenage daughter. But to a trusted few, she is The Equalizer — an anonymous guardian angel and defender of the downtrodden, who's also dogged in her pursuit of personal redemption. As Robyn aids the oppressed and exploited, her work garners the attention of shrewd NYPD Detective Marcus Dante (Tory Kittles), who doggedly seeks to uncover the identity of the vigilante known as The Equalizer.

New episodes of The Equalizer air Sundays at 8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT on CBS. Episodes are also streaming on CBS All Access, soon to become Paramount+ on March 4.