A Tribute to Edward Woodward’s Original Equalizer.
I remember my introduction to The Equalizer. It was through the 2014 Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua film. I found myself enjoying Denzel in the role and I liked the character and what he stood for right away. It wasn’t until a few years later that I even knew that there was an actual Equalizer tv show starring the late great Edward Woodward. Once I saw the show I was shocked by how different this version was from Denzel’s, but I found myself enjoying it even more than the 2014 movie and that’s all thanks to Edward Woodward’s portrayal as Ex company man turned freelance investigator\vigilante Robert McCall aka The Equalizer.
Edward Woodward had been known pretty well by audiences in the UK with his hit British spy show Callan which ran from 1967–1972 and the 1980 critically acclaimed war film Breaker Morant, but it was his landmark role as Robert McCall aka The Equalizer that made him a household name for American audiences. The 1985–1989 hit CBS show earned Mr. Woodward a Golden Globe Award and four Emmy nominations.
While now the character is shared by the always phenomenal Denzel Washington and the equally beloved and iconic Queen Latifah currently in the 2021 reboot of the show on CBS, It is still Woodward’s masterful performance that resonates all these years after the show was cancelled back in 1989… What makes Mr. Woodward’s Robert McCall so special and the all time best, you ask? Well, for starters his McCall was a very unique television character at the time and as much credit as creator Michael Sloan deserves for that, it is Mr. Woodward’s incredibly layered portrayal that made the character and the show iconic. Second, he was so believable in the role that in real life every time he walked down the street during the four season run he couldn’t go a minute without someone asking him to help them solve a problem. It happened so much that he had hundreds of cards with numbers of various helplines made and ready to hand out to people.
Robert McCall was a man of many facets: A gentleman and a stone cold badass; a tough as nails operative who could shoot you before you even can get a scream out but also pacifistic enough to prefer violence as a last resort; A most absentee father of the course of his son’s life but becomes a strong father figure for his many clients. Mr. Woodward played all of these facets with perfection. I feel like the recent incarnations of the character haven’t been given the same type of layers and room to evolve the way Mr. Woodward’s McCall did. What’s also missing is that hardcore passion and anger that stirs up whenever McCall sees injustice being done to innocent people, namely those he’s been hired to protect. I myself truly enjoy whenever McCall gets pissed. It’s that edge that made us believe that a man over 50 years old could whoop the butts in guys half his age and sadly this aspect of the character isn’t really there in the current iterations and I feel like without that true passion and anger it’s just not Robert McCall.
But regardless of certain crucial aspects of the character being missing nowadays (the stylish suits and ties, Black Jaguar, British accent and key relationships in his life like his son, Control and numerous buddies\assistants) I do appreciate that at least some of what Mr. Woodward did with the character you can see in Denzel and Queen’s performances and yet each put their own unique and interesting stamp on the character. He set the standard for the who The Equalizer is and what he stands for and no matter who else plays the character in the future, Mr. Woodward will always be the definitive McCall and his footprints will always be there. He was simply born for the role and nobody could ever truly fill his shoes because what he brought to the role was very specific and very unique.
Unfortunately we lost Edward in 2009 due to Pneumonia, but his legacy still lives on and will always live on because he will always be the first and best version of The Equalizer.
’Til next time, folks. Remember: Got a problem? Odds against you? Call The Equalizer!