Exclusive: Meet J.J. Abrams' latest discovery

J.J. Abrams has found his next great heroine.

English actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Doctor Who) has nabbed the coveted female lead in Undercovers, the new NBC dramedy about married spies from Abrams and Josh Reims, sources confirm to me exclusively.

Mbatha-Raw will play the role of Samantha Bloom opposite Soul Food‘s Boris Kodjoe, who was previously cast as her husband, Steven Bloom.

Gerald McRaney co-stars as the couple’s boss.

NBC confirmed this week that Abrams will direct the Undercovers pilot.

So, who’s Mbatha-Raw? The 27-year-old actress is best known for her recurring role as Tish Jones in Doctor Who. Other credits include UK dramas Spooks and Bonekickers. Most recently, she appeared on Broadway in Hamlet opposite Jude Law.

Thoughts? Aside from, “This show needs to get on my TV now!”

Image Credit: Mbatha-Raw: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic.com; Kodjoe: Al

Comments (168 total) Add your comment
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  • Bob

    His name is Boris Kodjoe, right? Looking forward to some more J.J. Abrams on television.

    • Addison

      Second!!!…

      :( …not as cool as first would’ve been.

      • Addison

        Thanks a lot bob. :(

      • dick

        shut up addison. no one wants to here how quickly you commented

      • Jeff

        Would it surprise you to learn that inanely typing FIRST! after any random blog post is not, in fact, cool at all? I suspect it would.

  • chichi

    I won’t be saying either of these folks names 3x fast.

    • NoElizaforOldMen

      But you’d touch her on the pooper wouldn’t you! (I would.)

  • Stacie

    She was also Ophelia in Hamlet opposite Jude Law, I believe.

  • J.G.

    Two black leads on a high profile project for a broadcast network? HELL YES!!!!

    • Eric

      Right? I knew about the show, but had no idea it would be featuring two people of color as the leads. That’s really exciting, since Brothers and the CW comedies got canceled, there is not a show with blacks as the leads on network TV.

      • dave

        Usually when people complain about these types of things it annoys me (that probably sounds worse than it should), but wow if that’s right that’s just sad. Not one other show with black leads?

      • Sandy

        I’m sure there’s some Tyler Perry show still on…

      • B

        Yeah I’m happy about this, but its on NBC and we all know what a mess NBC is right now. I feel like this show should be on CBS. It would have a better chance of survival there.

      • Jane

        There is CSI (Lawrence Fishburne) and NCIS:LA (LL Cool J)

      • Brooke

        But they still require white dudes like Chris O’Donnell to be co-lead.

      • J

        Those damn caucasions.

    • Shalanna

      YAYAYAYAYAY!!!

      Literally CANNOT WAIT!

    • nat

      Excited!

    • Lila

      Which means it’ll bomb out.

    • Celia

      I know!! I’m excited! I’m a huge JJ Abrams fan! :D

      • toonaspie

        Same here. That man is an inspiration to me!

    • DarkHawke

      Yeah, but NOW?! Why not last year? Or five years ago? Here’s a better question: why isn’t the great Andre Braugher the *sole* lead on a kick-ass show that’ll let him showcase his inestimable talents? They barely let Thief on the air, and though the titular star, he was basically window dressing on Gideon’s Crossing. I wish this new series and its cast the best, but never make the mistake of believing that Hollywood will EVER live up to their highly touted and self-praised ethics.

  • Dave

    I saw her in Hamlet opposite Jude Law and she was awful, she was the most amateurish actor on stage. I hope she’ll be better on this show.

    • Jean

      Couldn’t agree more- she was atrocious in Hamlet. Hopefully she’s better on TV than on the stage.

      • Renee

        I was considering seeing that production of “Hamlet” in Dec, but saw the trailer and instantly came to the conclusion that she was not much of an actress. Judgmental? Perhaps. But at least I know now that my instincts were correct. Although, I hope she does well on the TV show.

    • Bobby’s Robot

      I was really underwhelmed by her Ophelia too.

      • topazbean

        In fairness, Ophelia is a nightmare of a role. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it done well. Even Kate Winslet, who was good, did a lot of “I have no idea if this is what it’s like to be crazy, but heck! It looks good!”

  • justin

    Not exactly the best idea but in Abrams hands, it could be something special. Lets give it a chance.

  • michele

    Just googled her pic. She’s beautiful. Good choice. Can’t wait to see this show!

  • Miriam

    Tish Jones, herself! Nice to see her get some work on this side of the pond.

    And apparently I’ve turned into one of those Doctor Who fans who gets annoyed when supposedly knowledgeable TV writers cite the show as “Dr. Who” when it is actually “Doctor Who.” Ugh.

    • masurix

      haha, you and me both, sister. I was like, “Um, well, technically, that’s incorrect because…” Lord help us. ;)

    • CrimsonKisses

      I was thinking the same thing about it being Doctor Who, not Dr. Who.

    • Heather

      Same here! You are not alone. (lol YANA, anyone? :D Couldn’t resist the chance for a reference….)

      • Ted

        lol YANA – “Chan Yana Tho!”. I would say even more annoying then SPELLING it “Dr Who” is when people refer to The Doctor AS Dr. Who… THAT’S NOT HIS NAME PEOPLE lol

      • Tiffany

        I know, right. Like they have never watched the show but want to fake it. It’s a dead giveaway.

      • topazbean

        Really? People try to fake knowing about Doctor Who? Has it become cool and I didn’t get the memo? Because I want to tweet that memo!

    • Ted

      Ausiello’s Knowledge of the Doctor is inferior EXTERMINATE!EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!

    • Snsetblaze

      When I read the introduction, I was thinking that he meant one of the full-time Doctor Who companions. She is beautiful but was barely in the series.

      • Tiffany

        Billie Piper would have been awesome!!

      • ketch

        agreed. she’s not a star. she was in four episodes. Now Freema Agyeman would have qualified as a star from Doctor Who.

    • royatl

      I’ve watched ‘* Who’ for 30+ years now, and if I don’t want to type three extra characters and spell out ‘Doctor’, I feel entitled to use the abbreviated form, because I ‘m not a spokesman for the bleedin’ Beeb. If *they* always spell it out, that is fine with me.

      In any case, ‘Tish’ was only in, what, three or four episodes, and wasn’t much in *them*, compared to Freema, who J.J. should’ve been looking at! So why identify her as a ‘Doctor Who Gal?’

      • Maggie

        Bad choice. She’s beautiful, but wasn’t that great an actress in Doctor Who. Not that she had a big role, as she was just Martha’s sister and an aide to Prime Minister Saxon/The Master. They should have cast Martha herself, Freema Agyeman. She’s a better actress and is beautiful.

    • Lindsey

      Which episodes of Doctor Who has she been on? I can’t place her.

      • Heather

        She was in a bit of ‘Smith and Jones’, ‘The Lazarus Experiment’, ‘The Sound of Drums’, and ‘The Last of the Time Lords’. All Series 3. :)

  • Ryan

    I’m disappointed. I was hoping they’d balance out the cast with a more recognizable white actress that people are familiar with. Also, while its great that there is a black couple on TV who are spies they are getting bossed around by Southerner type Gerald McRaney on the program. People will love that. I think they should have shown an interracial couple and made no mention of the fact they are interracial.

    • Kay

      I’m sort of confused why you believe their should have been a more recognizable white actress. And if there had been, it would be amazingly unrealistic for an interracial couple to not bring up race. We’re not Stephen Colbert… no one is color blind.

      • Marie

        I’m in an interracial couple and came from an interracial family and we don’t talk about race (between us) ever. As in it’s not like a TV show with “high-larious” inter-cultural differences every five minutes. We’re married, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

      • Shalanna

        Amen Kay!

      • Wev

        I’m with Marie. As one half of an interracial couple with interracial kids, it’s not a big subject here, either.

    • Fatima

      What are you on?

      • Ryan

        What I’m talking about is having an actress who could be more recognizable to an American and worldwide audience. Ideas in my mind were Jaime Ray Newman, Sarah Wayne Callies, Lena Headey, or even Keri Russell. A lot of Americans, while not necessarily racist, will look at this and think ‘It’s a black couple, why isn’t on the CW?’.

        Also I think an interracial couple sends a good positive message to have in this type of show. I’m not saying you wouldn’t notice that one is white and one is black, but you don’t address it head on because it is unimportant. You could have missions where one of them is the only person who can blend in with a certain group because of their ethnicity but never say ‘Hey look, I’m black, she’s white and we’re married!’

        Now we have a show about a black couple getting bossed around by a cranky white guy. I’m not for that.

      • to ryans post

        recognizable? Jamie Ray Who? Sarah huh? Lena what? the only name i DO know is Keri Russell, and once she past that cute stage, i realized shes not a very good actress

    • Ana

      I’m not sure how that would have balanced out the cast. It’s not as if there are tons of black actresses being cast opposite white men in order to create “balance.” We’re still at a point where women of color are all but ignored on television. I can think of four on network tv right now and all of them are overweight and/or treated asexually.

      • Nia

        And to add to this comment, it’s not as if the female lead for “Undercovers” is really Black. She’s the unoffensive, not-too-Black kind. She looks more South Asian than Black.

        So, once again, Black women have actually been shafted. But most will eat this show up merely because the lead female isn’t a White chick.

    • Whut

      Ryan your still makes no sense to me at least. Only one of the white actresses, Keri Russell, that you listed was not for immediate googling. Secondly, I’m confused by your obsession with the racial gender component. The black actor isn’t a mainstream name so why is that okay? Usually male actors are the anchors. A “recognizable” white actress wouldn’t make that show any more appealing than an unknown black actress just ask recognizable white film actress Geena Davis and her failed series Commander In Chief. Whatever the makeup of the couple you just sound bias against black actresses.

    • Carmen

      With all do respect but are you serious? First of all the actresses that you mentioned aren’t truly major household names. Second even if the lead was a well known white actress that does not automatically guarantee that the show will be successful quality, timeslot, promotion and network support are going to play bigger factors. Third I don’t think a lot of Americans are going to wonder why this show isn’t on the CW when the CW no longer specializes in any shows featuring any type of minority leads. Back in 1984 a lot of people didn’t think The Cosby Show would be successful because it focused on a upper middle class couple and their children and they were wrong. There is no reason that a show centered around a black married couple who happen to be spies can’t be successful as well as long it’s well written and well acted.

      I’ve never heard of the actress that was casted as Boris’ wife but she is very pretty so they are gonna make one heck of a sexy couple and I am looking forward to the show.

    • Sandy

      Excuse me Ryan, I don’t appreciate your bigoted attitude about Southerners.

      • Ryan

        Wow. ok. Firstly some people are more clued in to some of the names I listed, or maybe at least the faces. All of those people have starred on a recent television series.

        Secondly, I did not mean to come off as biased toward black actresses or bigoted toward Southerners. I was merely commenting on what I feel is the oddity of having the black couple with the Southerner boss. I feel some people will take that the wrong way. i can live it myself.

        I also didn’t mean to suggest it will fail with two black leads or succeed should it have had a white woman. Its just that long before this show came around I have been hoping for more interracial couples on TV, probably because I have good friends who fall under the black male and white woman category.

        And as for Ana asking how she’s not sure that would balance out the cast because it currently doesn’t swing the other direction (black women to white men), I say you are absolutely right and there should be more. So forgive me if I caused any insults. It wasn’t necessarily about this show in particular. I’d like to see more black couples on TV. I’d like to see more interracial couples on tv. I just thought it would have been interesting to do it my way for this show

      • lvar12

        Ryan, I agree with you. Most people that see a black cast generally assume it is all about black people and it’s not the same for the reverse. I could be wrong but I don’t think a lot of white people are watching shows like Brothers, Girlfriends (both canceled) and the Tyler Perry shows. So it is a huge risk for Abrams. Having a white wife or another race would offset that mindset. That being said, most people will watch a show if its good no matter the leads and they haven’t rounded out the cast yet either but I think the bigger obstacle is that both actors are not that recognizable that people will automatically watch the show, someone like Kerry Washington, Sanaa Lathan, or Sharon Leal probably would have been a better fit.

    • DS9Sisko

      So, Ryan, in other words, you’re disappointed because the absolute historic nature of having two Black leads in a non-comedy, adventure series by the hottest, biggest producer in show business doesn’t meet with your approval because of your personal issues and friendships with people “who fall under the black male and white woman category.”

      Do you have such complaints about series with all-white leads, too? Don’t even answer the obvious…

    • cranscape

      JJ has a history of picking leading lady’s who are virtually unknown and it has been successful so far. So why the fear? Because she is both unknown and a woman of color? Actresses take off when they land a JJ show. No doubt the same will happen to her if the track record holds true.

    • MissVampireDiaries

      Why is it not on CW? How many blacks are even on the CW channel? Maybe 5 in total. This is great news for everyone. NBC needs a new show to keep up with the ratings, and it features a black cast which has all but disappear since Cosby and Fresh Prince…and no, Tyler Perry shit doesn’t count.

      Most white actors on TV today were not known or had little experience before they were cast…why the double standard toward black actors? God knows black actors are constantly being recycled, while new, fresh white faces are constantly popping up.

    • wd

      im disappointed people like you still exist. amen, finally a bit of diversity in the main leads of a primetime show thats NOT on the CW or cable. america is full of beautiful people of diff cultures, why not reflect it on our tv? not everyone is lilly white.

  • Paloma

    Mbatha-Raw was really good in Doctor Who. It will be nice to see her in another series … especially a series that I actually want to watch.

  • Mandy

    Doctor Who alum + JJ Abrams = Pretty nifty!

  • Telly B

    “Seriously, this could be great…Mr.And Mrs. Smith meets The Jeffersons…it’s a hit!!!”

    • mtraptor

      Oh, I get it! Black people.

      Brilliant.

    • Brooke

      That was just insulting.

      • Bobby’s Robot

        Telly B’s post was in quotes, so maybe he meant it facetiously?

  • Scott

    J. J. Abrams? Schweet! Spy Comedy? Awesome! NBC? Darn!

  • Heather

    *twitch* Doctor Who, not Dr. Who.

    …And sweet! :) Now all I need is ‘Rex is Not Your Lawyer’ to be picked up…hint hint NBC……I need my David Tennant!

    • Heather

      Yay, it’s fixed!

    • S.C.

      It’s a Doctor Who invasion! Whee!

      Now all we need is for Bernard Cribbins to get a show (for some reason, I kind of doubt it would be on the CW, though).

  • DamienB

    If NBC was smart… like, at ALL (although the late-night-shuffle-truffle are evidence of no signs of intelligent life over there), then they’d pair this surefire hit up with “Chuck” on Mondays and therefore, monopolize Monday Nights.

    • chrisjozo

      DamienB is right. This sounds like a show that would go great with Chuck.

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