Sitting back in the cushions, one leg draped over the arm of the chair, Nathan Purdee strikes a Superfly pose -- cool, casual and confident.
Best known for the role of Nathan Hastings in CBS's "The Young and the Restless," the 40-year-old actor is taking time out to promote his first film, "The Return of Superfly," which opens nationally on Friday. He was in town yesterday to tape a segment for the "Tim and Daphne" talk show, which will air at 11 a.m. Nov. 13 on Channel 2.
Mr. Purdee, who lives in North Hollywood, stars in the role of Youngblood Priest, a former dope dealer who has gone straight and now has compassion for the victims of drug dealing.
His posture, as he relaxes in the presidential suite of a downtown hotel, may recall Superfly but little else about Mr. Purdee calls to mind the flashy character played by Ron O'Neal in the 1972 motion picture. Rather than getting dolled up in fancy threads, wide-brimmed hat and coke-spoon pendant, Mr. Purdee wears a plain shirt, cuffs turned up at the wrists, jeans and cowboy boots that add inches to his athletic, 6-foot-2 frame. His talk is free of jive and rings with sincerity.
"I was real happy when I was approached to to do this story," he says. "The only stipulation I had was the film shouldn't glamorize drugs in any way. There are drug scenes but they're implied. You don't actually see anyone shooting up.
"Some films glamorize drugs and crime, so I'm glad I've had this chance to present myself in a positive role. We don't have enough positive role models for our young people."
"The Return of Superfly" picks up the story of Youngblood Priest character 18 years later, after he has established a legitimate business in Paris. On a visit to the United States, he is picked up by police because of his past record, and pressured to work for them undercover. When he refuses, the authorities release him but tip off drug dealers that he is back in town.
Appalled that children as young as 12 are out selling drugs, Priest vows to clear the streets of dope dealers. In doing this, he rouses the community to action.
One of the more memorable figures of the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s, the original Superfly was seen by many blacks as a poor role model, who glamorized street life. But Mr. Purdee points out, "People do give up their past and go on to do other things with their lives, positive things. That's not so far-fetched, is it?"
The Tampa native believes the film has an important lesson to teach: Every individual can help with a community's problems, and people shouldn't wait for someone else to start but should do the job themselves.
Interestingly, the role of the mature Superfly is not that far different from the part of Nathan Hastings, which Mr. Purdee originated in "The Young and the Restless" more than five years ago. In the TV show he began as Kong, an illiterate street dude and mob enforcer, who learns to read and becomes righthand man to the town's leading private investigator.
While acknowledging he is being typecast as bad-guy-turned-good-guy, he says, "I could play a pimp or a cop or somebody's buddy, but that would be boring. I don't mind being typecast in roles that make a difference."
Starring in "The Return of Superfly" was a major jump for Mr. Purdee who never even had a bit part in motion pictures before. He left "The Young and the Restless" for a time early in 1989 and had just started shooting a 10-week interracial storyline for NBC's "Santa Barbara" when he met with Sig Shore, producer of the original "Superfly."
That March he began work on the movie on locations in New York, Paris and Stamford, Conn. Versed in the martial arts, he choreographed his own fight scenes and performed all his own stunts.
Commenting on Mr. Purdee's appeal, Jon Goldwater, the film's executive producer, says, "We felt he has a strong presence and a magnetic personality. He understands where Superfly is coming from and we felt he could put himself completely in that role."
Since graduating from Metropolitan State College in Colorado with an associate degree in mental health, Mr. Purdee has had a varied career, including a seven-year stint as skip tracer for a bail bond company, locating people who jump bail.
Looking back over his career he feels luck has a played a part, along with the "no matter what" rule he follows.
"If you're willing to go for it, you've got to go for it no matter what," he explains. "You make your decision, you make a commitment, and no matter what -- you do it!"