Hollywood has a history of churning out larger-than-life characters who in real life are anything but. HUMAN TARGET star Chi McBride is not one of those characters. He’s big, boisterous and not afraid to speak his mind. As you’ll quickly discover in this very candid conversation where the opinionated actor pontificates on the business of show (“Nobody knows anything!”), HUMAN TARGET’s newest additions (“Nothing like taking orders from a woman with a Billion dollars!”) and how he predicted the ending to LOST three episodes in! (Spoiler Alert: “They were all f*cking dead!”)
Your imdb resume is a mile long, what do you find you get noticed for most?
Chi McBride: Hmmm… I don’t know man. Probably BOSTON PUBLIC, although it varies. Sometimes it’s Gone in 60 Seconds.
Not PUSHING DAISIES?
Yeah I get that too. When you’ve been fortunate enough to have a fairly long career — and I’ve been in show business for 20 years — it’s nice when people recognize your work but I don’t really keep track of who recognizes what.
Having worked on so many different shows, what — at this point in your career — do you look for before signing onto a series that has the potential to last six or seven years?
Just something that I find entertaining, that I gravitate towards, something reasonably intelligent. You know I don’t have a whole lot of requirements. I’m not one of these guys that has that pretentious artist b*llshit, it’s a job. It’s a really cool job, it’s nice work if you can get it, but at the end of the day it’s all pretend. I don’t sit around and put all of this spin on art, you want to do art, go to a park and paint. Show business is not driven by art, it’s driven by commerce and as long as it doesn’t make you look like a complete f*cking idiot, it’s written well and you find the characters interesting then I go for it and I’ve been very lucky that way. I don’t really choose a project based on how long I think it will be on TV. I would have made a lot of different choices in my career if I had. But at the same time, it’s pretty simple and comes down to projects that interest me.
Have you ever passed on a project where fans would be surprised to discover that Chi McBride could have played “that guy?”
Yes, but I’m not going to tell you what they are.
Does it ever bother you to look back and wonder what could have been?
It never bothers me.
You never look back on that one role that got away?
For what? You know what I mean. I make my decisions based on my own criteria. I don’t have any regrets about things happening, or not happening in my career. I don’t want to trade places with anyone in this business, hell, I don’t want to trade places with anyone in life. So no, I don’t have any regrets. If I thought I’d have regrets, I would have picked them.
So what was it specifically that attracted you to HUMAN TARGET?
Actually there wasn’t anything specific that attracted me to this role. What happened was I read the script, it was the first script I read during that pilot season and there really wasn’t anything in it. Winston was a completely different character, he was like this British kind of museum-curator type character. So I just sent my agent an email, saying there’s nothing in this for me but if somebody handles it correctly it could probably be kinda cool. And that was really it. As is often the case in this business, people kicked about different names and what have you and my name must have come up. The producers said they wanted to meet with me, I talked to them about what I would want to do if I was going to have something to do with this, they listened, were willing to make some adjustments in this character and here we are.
Looking back on the first season, were you happy with it?
I was, but I thought there were some things that could have been improved upon, and I think I wasn’t in the minority which is why I believe some changes and adjustments have been made that will reflect that. I think the show is really taking a different, more upward trajectory in terms of the excitement of the show and less about mythology and more about characters.
So fans can expect less mythology?
It’s just going to be less mythologically driven and I think that was a big driving force last year. [Original Showrunner] John Steinberg had his own vision of what the show would be, and [New Showrunner] Matt Miller had his vision of what the show should be and both the Studio and the Network sided with Matt, which I think is the right thing to do. The only way people really get invested in shows is with the development of characters. Take LOST, me and my old lady were watching the show and in the third episode, when Jack saw his dead father, we both looked at each other at the same time and said “They’re all f*cking dead!” But we watched because the stories were interesting and the characters were interesting. I didn’t care f*ck all what the island was, I didn’t care about any of that sh*t, I wanted to see what was going to happen to these characters. Sawyer was an interesting character, Jin and Sun their story was interesting, all of them, Jack, Hurley, everybody and it was so well acted, so well written and so beautifully developed in terms of characters I couldn’t stop watching it. I’d wait 4 or 5 weeks so I could watch 4 in a row but that’s because of character, it had nothing to do with mythology and that’s the same thing that holds true here. We’re going to see a lot more about these characters, who they are, where they’ve come from and what events have shaped their life, that’s what makes a show interesting.
One of the biggest changes in the show is the introduction of two new female characters, how’s Winston going to react to having a female boss?
Well you know how guys like to orders from woman, you do the math.
So not so well?
Nothing like taking orders from a woman who has a billion dollars.
We’d actually be okay with that.
You’d think you would!
The other character is a master thief named Ames who apparently has a connection to Winston.
Well she was a juvenile delinquent that Winston busted her on several occasions. He even gave her a chance to really kind of go clean by lettering her go in a situation she was obviously guilty in. But he’s got a crusader kind of complex, he’s into the people saving business.
Would saving people be part of the reason he’s so loyal to Chance?
Yeah there’s a reason for that and often times when people try to save people it’s because they need saving themselves.
Are you at all worried about the timeslot and premiere date changes that have plagued the show?
My job is to do my job, your job is to love it or hate it and the audience’s job is to decide whether or not it stays on the air. I can only control what happens between action and cut. That’s it, cut and dry, so anything else doing a bunch of hand ringing about something I can’t control nobody knows. The one thing I have learned in this business is that nobody knows a good damn thing. Who thought MIAMI VICE would do what it did, you know? Anthony Yerkovich walks into [then NBC President] Brandon Tartikoff’s office and says ready, “MTV cops!” And the next thing you know you have a cultural phenomenon. Nobody knows.
HUMAN TARGET returns on Wednesday November 17 at 8PM on FOX (November 21 on CTV in Canada