Phylicia Rashad has joined For Justice, a CBS drama pilot in which she’ll play a lesbian FBI agent, potentially shattering the Claire Huxtable image that has recently been as much of a curse as a gift. Variety reports Rashad will play Georgina Howe, the head of the FBI’s Civil Rights Division and a “savvy Washington player” experienced in DC’s bare-knuckle brawling after a career spent overcoming discrimination based on her race and sexual orientation. Selma’s Ava DuVernay will direct the pilot from a script Law & Order alum Rene Balcer adapted from James Patterson’s novel The Thomas Berryman Number. Rashad booked a role last month in Creed, the forthcoming Rocky spin-off, but For Justice would be her first time in the main cast of a television series since CBS’s Cosby.
The role could help put distance between Rashad and her high-profile work on The Cosby Show, which has put her in an awkward position with Cosby beset by rapidly multiplying rape accusations. Earlier this week, Rashad appeared at The BET Honors ceremony to receive its Excellence in Theatrical Arts Award. “Legacy is important, don’t let it go. Don’t give it up,” Rashad said in her acceptance speech, a statement widely interpreted as a defense of The Cosby Show, but not a defense of Cosby himself. Last month, Rashad triggered a backlash with a more pointed statement in which she suggested the rape allegations were part of a larger conspiracy to tarnish Cosby’s legacy. She later walked the statement back, saying she had been misquoted.