On Fox’s action drama HUMAN TARGET, now going into its second season, Mark Valley plays Christopher Chance, a bodyguard who takes crazy risks to protect his clients.
His backup team consists of fixer Guerrero, played by Jackie Earle Haley, and businessman Winston, portrayed by Chi McBride.
McBride, known to TV viewers for his regular roles in BOSTON PUBLIC, THE NINE and the still-lamented PUSHING DAISIES, gives us his take on Winston (who dons a Santa Claus costume in tonight’s Christmas-themed edition “The Other Side of the Mall”), plus his thoughts on the end of DAISIES and why its creator, Bryan Fuller, is somewhat like filmmaker Peter Jackson.
ASSIGNMENT X: As Winston is played by you, he’s arguably the most physically imposing person in HUMAN TARGET’s regular cast. Was the idea that they initially played that down at first, because Winston’s the business guy, the one who’s not having as much fun?
CHI McBRIDE: Yeah. This guy isn’t what he might appear to be and there’s a reason why he’s like that, there’s a reason why he has to hold his temper. It’s going to surprise you. I think that that’s a good thing. I think that people should get assumptions about characters and things about story revealed as you go along, as opposed to knowing everything up front.
AX: When you’re getting into it with Jackie Earle Haley’s character Guerrero, because Mr. Haley is not initially very physically imposing, do you guys play with the size differential in your confrontations?
McBRIDE: I just think that it’s good, real human comedy. First of all, our height difference is automatically comedy, and there’s an idea that this guy [Winston] is just some sort of gentle giant and [Guerrero] is some little tough guy. There’s a reveal to both characters of what these guys really are like. There’s a lot of layers to be peeled back.
AX: And you have negotiation scenes with the clients …
McBRIDE: There’s a lot of that. We can’t just have that one dynamic of, “Oh, Chance!” “I gotta do what I gotta do!” It’s so corny. The idea of security is not to end up [in a violent situation]. I’ve worked with some security people from time to time, and what they’ll tell you is, “My job is not to have a confrontation. That’s what we really want. What we really want to do is get through this without there being some wild, crazy scenario for us to come running you out of a building and covering you with a bulletproof vest.” So that’s the way that Winston looks at things. It doesn’t always take you throwing yourself into a Cuisinart to do your job and also just try to keep it more of a low profile. There’s a reason we don’t take cash, we take barter. We try to keep this thing kind of under the radar. So I don’t like when somebody wrecks a nine-billion-dollar train. I don’t want to have to extricate myself from that situation. That gives me a kind of attention I don’t want.
AX: How quickly did HUMAN TARGET come up for you after it was known that PUSHING DAISIES was not coming back?
McBRIDE: Well, I’ve been doing this a long time, and no matter what, people dole out information as they see fit, but if you’ve had enough experience, you kind of know when something’s dead [laughs], so I knew that at a certain juncture and I was prepared. As soon as the scripts came out, this was the first thing I actually read, and I emailed my agent and I told her, “Listen, there’s nothing in this for me” – because at the time, there wasn’t – I said, “But this could be a hit. Somebody’s going to get really lucky with this thing.” And people’s names get bandied about throughout the pilot season and sooner or later, mine came up, and the guys wanted to sit down and meet, and we had a talk about growing the character and how we were going to make this character whole, and that’s what happened.
AX: Were you content with how PUSHING DAISIES ended, as far as your character Emerson’s storyline?
McBRIDE: I don’t have a level of contentment or discontentment. It is what it is. When they tell you you’re done, you’re done, and however they wrap it up, that’s how they wrap it up. I mean, short of doing a hundred episodes, nothing’s going to be exactly what you want. So I think that with what they were given, they did a good enough job. [Emerson] was a character of questionable moral turpitude, which I dig about him. [PUSHING DAISIES creator/show runner] Bryan [Fuller] should get a lot of credit for wrapping it up the way that he did, considering that everybody thought it was going to be this great big giant hit.
AX: You had worked with director Peter Jackson on the film THE FRIGHTENERS. Did working on PUSHING DAISIES remind you at all of that experience?
McBRIDE: Sort of, yeah. I mean, Peter worked in very much the same way [as Bryan Fuller]. He’s incredibly talented and, with all of his dark, psychotic work, he’s really like a kid inside and so was Peter. It reminded me a lot of that.
AX: Back to HUMAN TARGET, do you do any physical preparation for playing Winston?
McBRIDE: I’m doing more working out, dropped like thirty pounds. [My trainers] will be gainfully employed as long as I’m working.
AX: What do you like best about HUMAN TARGET?
McBRIDE: I just think that it’s a throwback to those Eighties television shows like the Stephen J. Cannell shows, like THE ROCKFORD FILES and THE A-TEAM and shows like that. It’s good, entertaining television where nobody hugs and nobody learns a damn thing.
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