The Root Interview: Boris Kodjoe on Black-on-Black Love

The Afro-German heartthrob talks secrets, TV's color problem and why his new NBC show, "Undercovers," isn't a "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" knockoff.

So let’s say Boris Kodjoe asks you to run away with him. How long would it take you to pack your bags? Would you even pack? The new star of NBC’s Undercovers — a “sex-pionage” story created by Lost’s J.J. Abrams — is asking audiences to do just that this fall. The show, says Kodjoe, “is an escapist way to travel the world and go on adventures with us.”

Oh, right, “us.” Did I mention that Kodjoe’s Steven Bloom is married to fellow spy-turned-caterer-turned-spy-again Samantha (played by British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw)? Samantha and Steven are married secret agents with a boring suburban cover. Sound familiar? Kodjoe says the Blooms, unlike that other well-known spy couple, the Smiths, aren’t trying to kill each other — although the Austrian-born actor did spend nearly eight months in stunt and mixed martial arts training. Still, says Kodjoe, at its core, Undercovers is a romance. So about those bags you packed …

The Root: How important is it that the show’s two lead characters are African American but Undercovers isn’t necessarily an “African-American show”? [At this point, we think the characters are African American, but much will be revealed later in the series about their pasts.]

Boris Kodjoe: We should be beyond the point that it matters, but we are not. It’s been … years since two African-American actors lead a prime time show. It’s a proud moment to be a part of, and hopefully we’ll inspire some minds in the game.

TR: Why has it taken so long?

BK: We live in a very diverse, multicultural world where people look the way we look. The only segment of society that hasn’t embraced that is television and movies. Hopefully, after watching our show, network execs will see it as less of a risk. It’ll be just the norm now.

TR: Steven and Samantha are so in love, and that’s something audiences don’t necessarily see nowadays, especially between two African Americans on prime time.

BK: It’s definitely worth mentioning — a married couple that’s actually in love with each other. It’s also very important that we see African-American love that is not stereotypical or one-dimensional. I found that to be true with Soul Food.

TR: Obviously there will be comparisons to those other married spies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.