New York Undercover is an American police drama that aired on the FOX television network from 1994 to 1998. The series stars Malik Yoba as Detective J.C. Williams and Michael DeLorenzo as Detective Eddie Torres, two undercover detectives in New York City's Fourth Precinct who were assigned to investigate various crimes and gang-related cases. The cast also included Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn as their superior, Lt. Virginia Cooper, and Lauren Vélez, who joined the cast in the second season as Nina Moreno, fellow detective and love interest to Torres. New York Undercover was created and produced by Dick Wolf, and its storyline takes place in the same fictional universe as Wolf's NBC series Law & Order, its spin-offs, the Chicago Series, and Homicide: Life on the Street.
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.
New york undercover season 1 opening
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. Many viewers believe that these events—particularly the death of Torres and the departure of DeLorenzo—caused New York Undercover to "jump the shark," since the friendship of Williams and Torres was the major dynamic of the series.
New York Undercover 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 D'Arbanville-Quinn 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.
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. Eddie was killed in the line of duty after his car was bombed.
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 had 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. Her mother is a sergeant with the NYPD.
Jonathan LaPaglia as Det. Tommy McNamara (Season 3) – Tommy is an Irish-Italian American detecive. 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. Tommy is also killed after being shot to death by Nadine Jordan.
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.
Roger Robinson as Major Harold Williams (Season 3) – An officer with the United States Army Special Forces, he is the father of J.C. Williams. He abandoned his wife and son, and did not contact J.C. again for 17 years.
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.
Novella Nelson as Malcolm Barker's Mother (Season 4)
Law enforcement personnel
Frank Pellegrino as Det. Ricciarelli (Seasons 1–2)
Jim Moody as Det. Otis "Old School" Washington (Season 1)
Gilbert Lewis as Det. Otis "Old School" Washington (pilot episode only)
Takeo Lee Wong as Medical Examiner Wong (Seasons 1–3)
James Saito as Det. Chang (Season 1)
Jon M. McDonnell as Detective Sweitek (Seasons 1–2)
Michelle Hurd as A.D.A. Reynolds (Seasons 1–2)
Edie Falco as Sgt. Kelly (Seasons 2–3)
James McCaffrey as Capt. Arthur O'Byrne (Season 3)
Joe Lisi as Chief of Detectives (Season 4)
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 Tommy McNamara. 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). 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 Greogry.
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 dates J.C. briefly.
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.
The following actors also appeared in multiple roles:
Each episode of the first three seasons of New York Undercover featured several hip hop and R&B songs for its soundtrack, with noted musician-producer James Mtume serving as musical director. Each episode during Seasons 1 through 3 began with a montage of scenes leading up to the crime to be investigated. These sequences were notable for the absence of any dialogue or sound effects and are accompanied instead by music, usually hip-hop or R&B. This method of introducing the plot was dropped in the fourth season.
At some point during each episode, one or more of the principal characters would end up at Natalie's, a popular New York R&B café owned by Gladys Knight's character Natalie, where a popular artist would perform a set. Among the artists featured on the show during its run were Teena Marie, 112, Aaliyah, Erykah Badu, George Benson, Mary J. Blige, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Brownstone, Tevin Campbell, Chuck D, George Clinton & The P-Funk All-Stars, Celia Cruz, Johnny Gill, Groove Theory, Montell Jordan, Usher Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Amel Larrieux, Levert, Monifah, Aaron Neville, New Edition, The Notorious B.I.G., The O'Jays, Tito Puente, The Temptations, Xscape, and many others. The two exceptions were a first-season episode, wherein The Notorious B.I.G. performs at a rap concert, and the two-episode third-season premiere, wherein Kirk Franklin and the Family portray a church choir.
In the first-season episode "The Eyewitness Blues," actress Salli Richardson portrays a popular singer in need of police protection from a professional killer. This is the only episode from the first three seasons without a musical performance by a recording artist. In this episode, Richardson does her own singing.
Awards and nominations
New York Undercover won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Drama Series in both 1996 and 1997. Malik Yoba won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for starring in this series in 1996, 1997, and 1998.
For their supporting roles as recurring characters on the show, Fatima Faloye and Ice-T were awarded the NAACP's awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, respectively, in 1996.
The series aired on the TV One cable network from 2007 to 2011. In 2008, the series began airing on Sleuth, but when it was changed to Cloo, New York Undercover was dropped. The series aired on Si TV as well, but when it was changed to Nuvo TV, New York Undercover was dropped. Centric began to air the series in early 2012, mainly in early morning slots. Since January 1, 2008, New York Undercover has aired on RTL's digital RTL Crime channel.
In April 2010, Malik Yoba stated on an episode of The Wendy Williams Show that he has tentative plans to revive the series, updating the storyline to the present day. No other details of further development have been announced since.