The actress and singer balances the scales of justice on CBS' new drama, premiering after Super Bowl LV.

By Chancellor Agard
February 05, 2021 at 08:30 AM EST
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Queen Latifah couldn't have said yes to starring on CBS' righteous crime drama The Equalizer any faster. Not only has the 50-year-old multihyphenate wanted more action-oriented roles since 1996's Set It Off, but the character of Robyn McCall — a woman who stands up for the little guy — resonated with her on a personal level. It tapped into the strong sense of justice she developed from being bullied as a child and having a father and brother who were police officers in their New Jersey community.

"Seeing those things in front of you and then having a role offered to you that almost mirrors what your life is like and what made you who you are, it was a no-brainer," says the Academy Award nominee, who also serves as executive producer. "Maybe I said yes a little too soon, because I don't have the same knees I did when I was 25. But my heart is in the right place."

A gender-flipped take on both the 1980s TV drama starring Edward Woodward and the Denzel Washington-led film series of the same nameThe Equalizer follows Latifah's disillusioned former CIA operative as she uses her very particular set of skills to defend the downtrodden. Along the way, she teams up with martial-arts expert Melody "Mel" Bayani (Liza Lapira) and hacker Harry Keshegian (Adam Goldberg). "We'll deal with the issues of sex trafficking, of young people being denied opportunities or having to work twice as hard as someone who may come from a wealthy family. We'll also see how people use their power in malicious ways," says Latifah. "Robyn is there to right those wrongs." And, lest we forget, kick ass while doing so. "Last night we had an incredible fight sequence that required me to disarm several people and get them to the ground in probably 30 seconds," she says. "It was a lot of fun!"

Credit: Barbara Nitke/CBS

Beyond the thrills, Latifah was particularly interested in exploring Robyn's home life with her 15-year-old daughter, Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes), who is unaware of her mother's job. "My mom and I went through all kinds of things during those teenage years," she says. "And here's someone who is so good at what she does professionally, but she is going to get all she can handle personally. I want to play all those things [and] see what that relationship is like and how it grows."

While she remains in demand as a star and a producer, Queen Latifah is committed to The Equalizer for the long haul. "The world needs to see a little justice for a while," says the actress, who is grateful for the show's post–Super Bowl premiere slot. "I think it is going to be something people are going to enjoy seeing for no less than five years. And I'm up for it."

The Equalizer debuts Sunday after Super Bowl LV, and will air on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT thereafter, on CBS.

(Video provided by CBS)

A version of this story appears in the February issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now and available here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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