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Queen Latifah among stars coming out for Global’s fall launch

Queen Latifah, pictured in Toronto in June 2013. John R. Kennedy / Global News

TORONTO – The stars were out early Wednesday at Toronto’s Windsor Arms Hotel as Shaw Media unveiled its Fall 2013 season.

Queen Latifah, whose new daily talk show debuts on Global in September, admitted she intends to exploit her star status to bring in some big name guests.

“I’ll make the phone calls when I need to,” she said. “A lot of my friends who are in the business want to come on the show. They want to have a home where they can come and feel comfortable and have real conversations and do fun stuff and not just promote whatever they have going on.”

Latifah, 43, is no stranger to Toronto, having made both 2002’s Chicago and 2007’s Hairspray in the city.

WATCH: 5 QUESTIONS FOR QUEEN LATIFAH

“I love it here. I love Toronto. My experiences here have been great,” she said. “I have friends who are like family to me that live not far from here, like in Peterborough and Whitby, so I get out into the town a little bit.

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“Toronto is such a great example of how to have a multicultural city and how people can really enjoy each others’ cultures and it’s closer to what the world is really supposed to be like.”

Latifah said her show will rely heavily on digital media to engage the audience.

“I want to integrate them into the show as much as possible,” she explained. “We’re reaching out to our digital audience because we want them sending in videos and being a part of the show. It will be their show and I want them to be the stars of this show.

“I want them to be like, ‘I’m going on The Queen Latifah Show because my kid did this thing on the car!’ Stuff like that can really make your day and warm your heart,” added Latifah, “so that comes from the public so that’s why we need to be connected to each other.”

Blair Underwood, who starred in the short-lived series The Event and Dirty Sexy Money, returns to TV in a reboot of Ironside. He plays the titular detective confined to a wheelchair after being shot.

The 48-year-old former L.A. Law star said he wasn’t initially sure about taking on the role played by Canadian actor Raymond Burr for eight seasons beginning in 1967.

“It’s a completely different expression of this character. He’s very physical, he’s very active, he over-compensates a lot and we learn more about why he does that. We see him prior to the accident, which is a different style than the original,” Underwood explained.

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“We are able to tap into an audience that remembers [the original series], as a jumping off point, and then there are two generations now that have never heard of it so we get to introduce this character to them.”

Underwood will become the second wheelchair-bound series regular in prime time. (Kevin McHale has played paraplegic Artie Abrams on Glee for four seasons.)

The star, whose mother has used a wheelchair for many years, said he feels a sense of responsibility portraying a disabled person.

“I take it very seriously partially because of my mother but also in general, in terms of disabled actors that I’ve talked to. It’s important that the portrayal be as honest and authentic as it can and respectful.”

Underwood acknowledged it is increasingly difficult to attract and hold on to an audience but he thinks Ironside – which will kick off with nine weeks of original episodes – can do it.

“It’s a self-contained, closed-ended drama. There’s a crime, investigation, resolution and an over-arching character study, but you’re in and out,” he explained.

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Ironside is set to air Wednesday nights at 10 and Global is hoping it will be as successful as another modern take on a classic crime show, Hawaii Five-O, which returns for a fifth season in a new Friday at 9 p.m. time slot.

Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Chin Ho Kelly on Hawaii Five-O – and previously starred on Lost — said he knows how lucky he is to have worked in Hawaii for almost a decade.

“It wasn’t a coincidence when I heard about [Hawaii Five-O] and reached out to ask about it but it was coincidence that another show was coming in at the same time Lost was ending and happened to be good enough to stay on the air,” he said. “You can’t plan for that.”

Kim conceded the action-packed series might not shine such a favourable light on the beautiful islands.

“We give the impression that Hawaii is the most dangerous place on the planet.”

The 44-year-old actor said he looks forward to episodes that focus on his character or put him in dangerous situations.

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“That’s the stuff that’s the most fun for me,” Kim admitted. “The crime of the week element of the show has its own appeal but the character stuff for me is the stuff that I feel like I’ve been trained to do, and the relationships – when they are more fully fleshed-out – I think they are more interesting and inform the cases.”

Kim described the couple-like relationship of McGarrett and Williams as “a bromance in every sense of the word.”

Could it be more than that? “I think there are websites that have alluded to that and have been pretty graphic about their relationship.”

Is romance in the cards for Kelly?

“At the end of the season, Chin picked up the phone and made a call to someone that might potentially stay around,” he teased.

Taking over Hawaii Five-O’s Monday nights spot on Global is The Blacklist, starring James Spader as a fugitive who surrenders to the FBI and offers to help a rookie agent (Megan Boone) solve the abduction of a general’s daughter.

He then surprises the feds by offering to spill the beans on a list of criminals compiled over 20 years.

According to Diego Klattenhoff, who stars as FBI agent Donald Ressler, Spader is just as intense off-camera.

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“He’s a f**king weirdo,” he joked.

“James is a very interesting guy and I’m really looking forward to working with him and also just being around him,” Klattenhoff said. “For me, personally, he’s an actor that I really admire.”

Best known for playing Mike Faber on Homeland and currently appearing on the big screen in After Earth, Klattenhoff was born in French River, Nova Scotia and has worked extensively on TV and film projects in Canada since moving to Toronto as a teenager.

He will show up on the big screen next in the sci-fi epic Pacific Rim, which was filmed in Toronto last year.

Klattenhoff said he never forgets his roots.

“I’m extremely patriotic. I’ll always be Canadian,” he said. “People are amazed that I’m Canadian and I don’t have a crazy accent.”

Klattenhoff added Canadians are respected in Hollywood.

“What people love in the States is you have a great work ethic. You know, coming from Canada, coming from rural Nova Scotia, you do a lot of different jobs. This isn’t working at a coal mine. You do your job, you always show up and be as prepared as possible.”

Global is owned by Shaw Media, parent company of Global News.

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