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New York Undercover (whose working title during development was Uptown Undercover, named after the record label, Uptown Records, whose founder and CEO, Andre Harrell, was also the executive producer of the series) is notable for being the first police drama on American television to feature two people of color in the starring roles. In contrast to the popularity of NBC's "Must See TV" on Thursday nights in the 1990s, many African-American viewers flocked to Fox's Thursday night line-up of Living Single, New York Undercover, and Martin.
In addition to the main storylines in each episode, subplots explored the private lives of the show's characters. For example, Det. Williams struggled to raise his young son, Gregory (George O. Gore II), while Torres was shown to be fighting family and other related problems, including having to cope with his father's drug addiction and HIV-positive status, and a childhood friend turned organized-crime boss.
At the beginning of the third season, a new detective, Tommy McNamara (Jonathan LaPaglia), was introduced as a principal character. In the third-season finale in May 1997, Torres and Moreno are married. However, in that same episode, Torres and McNamara are both killed by a gang of bank robbers.
The series returned with a new cast for its fourth and final season in January 1998. Williams and Moreno were assigned to a new unit, resulting in Cooper being dropped from the cast. Joining the detectives were Lt. Malcolm Barker (played by Tommy Ford), Det. Nell Delaney (Marisa Ryan), and Det. Alec Stone (Josh Hopkins). The new unit eventually captured the last bank robber responsible for the deaths of Torres and McNamara.
The principal cast members from season 2 of New York Undercover (clockwise, from top left): Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn as Virginia Cooper, Lauren Velez as Nina Moreno, Michael DeLorenzo as Eddie Torres, and Malik Yoba as J.C. Williams.
Malik Yoba as Det. Julius Clarence "J.C." Williams: J.C. is an African-American detective at the Fourth Precinct. He has a son, Gregory, whom he fathered as a teenager with then-girlfriend Chantal Tierney. His partner Eddie Torres is his closest friend. J.C. is the only character to appear in all 89 episodes.
Michael DeLorenzo as Det. Eduardo "Eddie" Torres (seasons 1-3): Born in the Bronx, Eddie is a Puerto Rican-American detective. After years of estrangement from much of his immediate family, he formed close relationships with his brother Jimmy, a priest; his sister Carmen, a journalist; and his father Mike, a musician and recovering heroin addict. His partner J.C. Williams is his closest friend. At the end of the third season, Eddie is killed in the line of duty after his car is bombed in a revenge attack by bank robber Nadine Jordan.
Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn as Lt. Virginia Cooper (seasons 1-3): Virginia is the show's commanding officer during the first three seasons. She is married and has four children, one of whom died at the age of eight. She is the commanding officer of the detective squad at the NYPD's Fourth Precinct.
Lauren Velez as Det. Nina Moreno-Torres (seasons 2-4): Nina is a Puerto Rican-American. At the age of 16, she married her boyfriend Luis and gave birth to a daughter, Melissa. She gave the girl up for adoption after Luis abandoned her. She later dated and married Eddie Torres, but was widowed soon after following his murder. Her mother is a sergeant with the NYPD.
Jonathan LaPaglia as Det. Tommy McNamara (season 3): Tommy is an Irish-Italian American detective. His father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty, with many suspecting that he was corrupt. Prior to his transfer to the Fourth Precinct, he had very little interaction with New York's African-American and Latino neighborhoods or police officers. At the end of the third season, Tommy is killed after being shot to death by Nadine Jordan, whose gang he'd infiltrated while undercover.
Marisa Ryan as Det. Nell Delaney (season 4): Nell is a young officer introduced in the fourth season. She lied about her age upon entering the police academy, but the NYPD chose to overlook this when she was exposed years later. She is a close friend of fellow detective Alec Stone.
Josh Hopkins as Det. Alec Stone (season 4): Born Alec D'Amico, he is the son of the head of a Brooklyn-based organized crime family. Alec's decision to pursue a career in law enforcement has estranged him from most of his relatives. He is a close friend of fellow detective Nell Delaney.
Tommy Ford as Lt. Malcolm Barker (season 4): Malcolm is the commanding officer of the NYPD's Special Investigations Division. Most of the S.I.D.'s operations are covert, and he frequently instructs his detectives to "lie, cheat, [and do] whatever it takes" to close a case.
George Gore II as Gregory "G" Williams: Gregory is the son of J.C. Williams and Chantel Tierney. In the pilot episode, he is described as a nine-year-old. For most of Season 1, his given age is 10. By the beginning of Season 3, his given age is 13. He is the only recurring character to appear in all four seasons.
Michael Michele as Sandra Gill (season 1): Sandy is an attorney in her late twenties. Throughout Season 1, she was involved with J.C. Williams. She became pregnant with J.C.'s baby and agreed to marry him, but was murdered on the eve of their wedding by a criminal with a vendetta against J.C.
Fatima Faloye as Chantel Tierney (seasons 1-3): Chantel is a registered nurse in her late twenties. She has a son, Gregory, to whom she gave birth as a teenager with then-boyfriend J.C. Williams.
Kamar de los Reyes as Luis (season 2): Luis was the teenage boyfriend of Nina Moreno, whom he married after she became pregnant. The child, a girl, was put up for adoption and given the name Melissa Lewis. Luis soon abandoned Nina. While she moved on with her life, Nina never divorced Luis. Years later, after he and Nina finally agreed to begin divorce proceedings, Luis was killed during a mugging.
José Perez as Mike Torres (seasons 1-3): Mike is a jazz and salsa musician, and a recovering heroin addict. Having alienated much of his family over the years, he is closest to his son Eddie.
José Zúñiga as Father Jimmy Torres (seasons 1-2): Jimmy is a Catholic priest, and the older brother of Eddie Torres.
Lisa Vidal as Carmen Torres (seasons 1-2): Carmen is a newspaper reporter, and the sister of Eddie Torres.
Nancy Ticotin as Teresa Torres Rivera (seasons 1 and 3): Teresa is the well-to-do sister of Eddie Torres.
Steve Ryan as Dave Cooper (seasons 2-3): Dave is the husband of Virginia Cooper.
Eden Riegel as Megan Cooper (seasons 2-3): Megan is the daughter of Virginia Cooper. As a preteen, Megan befriends a man in an online chat room. When she meets him in person, he kidnaps and rapes her. During his subsequent attempt to avoid arrest, the man is shot and killed by Virginia.
Marina Durell as Sgt. Sonia Moreno (seasons 2-3): A sergeant with the NYPD, she is the mother of Nina Moreno.
Zoe Dora Lukov as Melissa Lewis (season 3): Melissa is the biological daughter of Nina Moreno and her first husband Luis. Because her parents were still teenagers when she was born, she was given up for adoption.
Dean Winters as Paul Delany (season 4): A firefighter with the FDNY, he is the brother of Nell Delany.
Jennifer Esposito as Gina D'Amico (season 4): The former lover of Alec Stone, she is now married to his brother Frankie D'Amico.
Justin Theroux as Frankie D'Amico (season 4): An organized crime boss with the Brooklyn-based D'Amico Family, he is the brother of Alec Stone.
Sean Squire as Roger (season 4): Roger is the maternal half-brother of Malcolm Barker. He and Malcolm are estranged.
John Costelloe as John Santucci (seasons 1-3): Santucci is an organized crime boss connected to the Gambino Family. He was a childhood acquaintance of Eddie Torres, and there is personal animus between the two.
Ice-T as Danny "Danny-Up" Cort (seasons 1-2): A chemistry wiz, Cort was a rising drug kingpin until being apprehended by detectives from the Fourth Precinct. After J.C. Williams killed his brother in a police shootout, Cort retaliated by murdering J.C.'s pregnant fiancée Sandy Gill, igniting a bitter feud between the two men.
Giancarlo Esposito as Adolfo Guzman (season 2): Guzman was a childhood rival of Eddie Torres, and as an adult became a criminal associate of John Santucci. The animus between Eddie and Guzman grew when Guzman attempted to take over Mike Torres' nightclub.
Naomi Campbell as Simone Jeffers (season 2): Sometime after Sandy Gill's death, Jeffers seduced J.C. Williams as part of a revenge plot instigated by Danny Cort.
Ernest Abuba as Sonny Fung (season 3): Fung was an organized crime lord in the Chinatown section in Manhattan. He ordered the death of Tommy McNamara's father, a corrupt police officer secretly working with Fung. Years later, Fung is killed in a shootout by another corrupt police officer, Harry Bennett (the elder McNamara's former partner).
Dana Eskelson as Nadine Jordan (seasons 3-4): Jordan was part of a highly skilled bank robbery team, and was responsible for the murder of Detective Tommy McNamara after discovering he was a cop that had infiltrated her gang. Eventually, every member of her crew was captured or killed by the police, but she escaped. In retaliation, she killed Eddie Torres, becoming the primary enemy of J.C. Williams (Eddie's best friend) and Nina Moreno (Eddie's bride) during the fourth and final season. Nadine is eventually captured and convicted of her numerous crimes (including Eddie and Tommy's murders), but is spared the death penalty and given life without parole, much to J.C. and Nina's dismay. Nina eventually kills her in self-defense during an undercover operation in a prison.
Victor Colicchio as "Slick Rick" (season 1): One of Eddie Torres' confidential informants.
Elizabeth Rodriguez as Gina (season 1): Eddie Torres' off-and-on girlfriend during Season 1.
Gladys Knight as Natalie (season 1): The original owner of Natalie's, the nightclub which appears in virtually every episode of the series' first three seasons.
Rosanna Scotto as Herself (seasons 1-3): She is a television reporter for WNYW, the Fox station in New York.
Isaiah Washington as Andre Morgan (season 2): An ex-convict released on parole, Andre is a single father whose son is a friend and hockey teammate of J.C. Williams' son Gregory.
N'Bushe Wright as Carol (season 2): Carol is Andre Morgan's parole officer. She dates J.C. Williams briefly.
Tyra Banks as Natasha Claybourne (season 3): Natasha is Gregory Williams' French teacher. She briefly dates J.C.
Numerous actors made appearances in two or more episodes portraying different characters. Before joining the cast in Season 2 as Nina Moreno, Lauren Velez appeared in the first-season episode "Olde Tyme Religion" as a believer in Santería. Additionally, J.K. Simmons guest starred as Sgt. Treadway in the Season 2 episode "Unis," returning in Season 4's "Mob Street" as Law & Order police psychiatrist Emil Skoda. Michelle Hurd played a recurring role in Seasons 1 and 2 as A.D.A. Reynolds, but returned as a criminal in Season 3's "No Place Like Hell." Joe Lisi appeared in the second-season episode "Bad Blood" before assuming a recurring role as the Chief of Detectives in Season 4. Both Jesse L. Martin and Ice-T portrayed criminals on this series before ultimately landing their iconic roles as detectives on Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU, respectively.
The following actors also appeared in multiple roles:
On December 5, 2018, Deadline reported that series creator Dick Wolf and ABC were in talks to reboot the series. Six days later, ABC officially committed the reboot to a pilot.
On January 31, 2019, ABC officially ordered the reboot to pilot, also revealing that it would officially be a revival of the original series, featuring both old characters and a new cast. In February 2019, both Malik Yoba and Lauren Veléz were confirmed to reprise their respective roles as J.C. Williams and Nina Moreno, with Williams now being the overseeing officer of the new young detectives, and Moreno being retired, but retaining ties to her old unit. On March 12, 2019, ABC cast Toby Sandeman and Otmara Marrero as the revival's two lead detectives Nat Gilmore and Melissa Ortiz, as well as Anna Enger and Octavio Pizano as supporting detectives Lisa Kim and Moses Hernandez, and MC Lyte as Lieutenant April Freeman, the unit's new boss.
On May 10, 2019, it was announced that the revival would not move forward on ABC, but would be shopped to other networks and streaming services. As of January 2020, it is still being shopped around. In July 2020, Deadline reported that the revival might come to fruition on NBC's new streaming service, Peacock.