Action hero Wesley Snipes takes a gamble in The Player

Wesley Snipes returns to the action genre in the role of a gambling ring pit boss in The Player

Wesley Snipes does not think much of the current crop of Hollywood action men.

The 53-year-old star of Demolition Man (1993) and the Blade trilogy (1998-2004) belongs to the old guard of actors who were at the top of their game in the 1990s and 2000s, when he and the likes of Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson ruled the box office with one catch phrase-spawning action hit after another.

"It's kind of interesting that you don't have a lot of younger male actors who are strong actors as well as physical action guys," says the actor, who has also appeared in edgy indie dramas such as Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991).

"We've migrated to putting the superheroes in costumes and crazy outfits, but you don't have many guys who can do what they did in the old Steve McQueen or Charles Bronson days.

"Maybe it's what the women want - guys who are a little bit softer," he adds, chuckling.

However, unlike many of his action-star peers who saw their careers gradually fade, his came to a screeching halt in 2010, when he was sentenced to three years in jail for failing to file his tax returns.

Since completing his sentence, he has been trying to re-establish his name. The new action-packed television series, The Player, is his biggest attempt thus far.

Airing in Singapore on Tuesdays (RTL CBS Extreme, Singtel TV Channel 335), it sees Snipes as a pit boss overseeing a high-stakes gambling ring in which wealthy individuals bet on the ability of security expert Alex Kane (Strike Back's Philip Winchester) to stop some of the biggest crimes from taking place.

Speaking to Life while filming a scene at the Port of Los Angeles, the actor says he misses the days when action stars were also strong dramatic performers.

With most of that generation of stars now mostly retired, Snipes - whose early hits included Passenger 57 (1992), where he played a former police officer who takes down a terrorist - says: "I've got only a couple more years, I guess - I'll be one of the last action-drama guys."

He is also staging his comeback at a time when critics are wringing their hands over Hollywood's fondness for comic-book adaptations and bemoaning the lack of racial and gender diversity in casting these films.

One of the few non-white stars to play a Hollywood superhero in the comics-inspired Blade films, in which his character was a vampire hunter, Snipes says there are many minority actors, directors and other creative people waiting in the wings for the opportunity to make such films.

The actor recently confirmed he is in talks with Marvel Studios to revive his Blade character for a fourth film and that "conversations have been good".

"The presumption is that only a few people know how to make those films, but it's not true.

"Yes, it's a small club, but there are communities within that small club that know all the technical rules and how to tell a story - a lot of people from different cultures know how to do this, they just haven't been in a position to collectively steer the ship or the resources haven't been available for them to show what they can do.

"But that's going to change as people continue to learn what the secrets are and as the world continues to get bigger and smaller at the same time."

He acknowledges that many movies that have jumped on the superhero bandwagon may not be of the highest quality and that financial pressures may be driving Hollywood's aversion when it comes to creatively risky projects.

It is also because the people making decisions increasingly come from a finance background.

"Hollywood is a business, but it started out with an appreciation of art. Going back to the 1930s, there were a lot of incredibly artistic people on both sides of the camera, so it was filtered by the fact that there were people in management who still liked movies and the art of creating this magical experience.

"Now, you have a lot of managers who have come out of Wall Street, with accounting and finance backgrounds. I think that has had some influence.

However, the star, who is married to 41-year-old Korean-American painter Nikki Park, with whom he has four children aged seven to 14, believes that innovation in Korean and other foreign cinemas will inspire Hollywood to think outside the box.

"There are cultures that still look at film and TV as an art form and build their businesses around preserving that.

"They'll start producing better quality products and Americans will get jealous and it'll force us to come back to that."

He is heartened by the proliferation of avenues for creativity, which is evidenced by the fact that he is now headlining a TV show.

He is also preparing to appear in Spike Lee's upcoming movie, Chi-Raq, a musical drama that will be the first original film produced by Amazon to be released online, next month.

"Yeah, Chi-Raq, that's a big turn. I'm happy about it, though - it's another outlet for a creative individual like myself and it's a golden time to be creative.

"There are so many outlets and places where you can get your product out."

•The Player airs on RTL CBS Extreme (Singtel TV Channel 335) on Tuesday at 10pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Action hero takes a gamble'. Print Edition | Subscribe