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Queen Latifah: 'Equalizer' different from films and original series

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Queen Latifah: 'Equalizer' different from films and original series
Queen Latifah stars in "The Equalizer," which premieres Sunday on CBS after the Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of CBS

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Grammy winner and Oscar nominee Queen Latifah, who stars in the newest version of The Equalizer, said her take on the role is yet another reinterpretation.

"I am absolutely excited and love the fact that Denzel made this a relevant product again," Latifah said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "He set a bar in a way, but also gave us a lot of room to go a completely different direction."

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Denzel Washington starred in two Equalizer movies based on the 1985 Edward Woodward TV series.

New Equalizer Robyn McCall (Latifah) is a retired CIA operative. Now, she uses her skills and resources to help people wronged by powerful forces -- she equalizes the odds.

Woodward's Robert McCall was an intelligence operative for the fictional "Agency" or "Company" before his private equalizing. Washington's McCall was a Marine and Defense Intelligence Agency operative before equalizing.

"She doesn't want to equalize for billionaires, anymore," Latifah said. "She doesn't want to equalize for countries who play chess with people. She wants to equalize for people."

Latifah has some experience reinventing herself in real life, too. Born Dana Owen, she had a rap career as Queen Latifah. She released a 2004 album of jazz standards as Dana Owens. Her last album was 2009's Persona.

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Film and television success came under the name Queen Latifah, too. She combined her performing skills in the musicals Chicago and Hairspray, earning an Oscar nomination for Chicago.

Latifah said turning McCall into a Black woman gives her show a new perspective on evening the odds. Robyn McCall also is a single mother to Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes).

"Unlike Denzel's version, and unlike the original version, these characters were much more stoic, much more closed off," Latifah said. "Robyn doesn't have that luxury. She's got to figure out how to turn off the soldier in her and turn on the mom."

The soldier in Robyn McCall springs into action each week. Latifah said she enjoys learning fight choreography, but also makes sure The Equalizer is realistic to a 50-year-old action hero.

"I'm learning a lot about how to do it efficiently and how to preserve my body, as well," Latifah said. "I don't pretend to be 22 years old."

While her Equalizer series may be action packed, it was also important to Latifah that Robyn McCall outsmart villains.

"I want to see this woman fight with her mind, not just with her hands," Latifah said. "That's what you haven't seen enough of, particularly from Black women, on television and in a lead role."

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McCall's missions will also require her to go undercover in glamorous disguises. Latifah shared one such Equalizer mission.

"I'm in a ballgown dress in 20 degrees of weather," Latifah said.

The Equalizer includes a cast of new characters to support McCall. Lorraine Toussaint plays Delilah's Aunt Vi, helping take care of Delilah while McCall is busy equalizing.

McCall's former CIA handler William Bishop (Chris Noth), sharpshooter Melody Bayani (Liza Lapira) and hacker Harry Keshigian (Adam Goldberg) provide intel and firepower for McCall.

"[McCall]'s a leader," Latifah said. "She knows how to delegate."

As an executive producer of The Equalizer as well as its star, Latifah considers the show a team effort, too.

"You don't win alone," Latifah said. "You have to learn to work with people, different kinds of people and everybody has a role to play."

The Equalizer premieres Sunday on CBS after the Super Bowl.

Moments from Queen Latifah's career

Golden Globe-nominee Queen Latifah appears at Bloomingdale's department store to unveil their store windows promoting her film "Chicago" in New York City on January 7, 2003. The film would go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Photo by Ezio Petersen/UPI | License Photo

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