Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine and Common in THE CHI | © 2018 Showtime

Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine and Common in THE CHI | © 2018 Showtime

Emmy-winning Lena Waithe created Showtime’s new Sunday night series THE CHI, which has already been renewed for a second season. Besides Waithe, THE CHI counts rap star Common (who makes a brief onscreen appearance) and show runner Elwood Reid (THE BRIDGE) as executive producers.

THE CHI, shot on location, interweaves the stories of multiple families and characters from old women to young children in inner-city Chicago. It has time for light moments – a boy named Kevin (Alex R. Hibbert) winds up in his school production of THE WIZ almost by accident – but one grim plot thread follows a cycle of murder, revenge and remorse.

Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (pronounced Mm-wih-NAY) plays Ronnie Davis. Ronnie is a war veteran who is trying to get clean and sober in order to return to his love Tracy (Tai’isha Davis). When Tracy’s son Jason is shot to death, Ronnie seeks to meet out vengeance in order to comfort Tracy. Acting on a tip, Ronnie kills local teenager Coogie (Jahking Guillory) – and then learns that Coogie is innocent of Jason’s murder. Ronnie is in a state of anguish.

Born in the U.S., Mwine has also spent a lot of time in Uganda. He was a series regular in TREME and had prominent arcs in THE RICHES, HEROES and THE KNICK. Mwine’s film acting credits include BLOOD DIAMOND, QUEEN OF KATWE and BOOST. He is also a writer, director, producer and cinematographer.

ASSIGNMENT X: Do you think Ronnie has ever killed anybody before? Do we know that? Is that why he drinks?

NTARE GUMA MBAHO MWINE: He served in the military. There’s nothing on the page that says whether he has or hasn’t, but the only way I think I could answer is, he has served in the military. So there’s a possibility. A lot of folks who came back from serving five calls of duty would self-medicate. I’m not sure if that’s the only reason. I’m piggy-backing off of that – there could be other reasons.

AX: How much does Ronnie want to get back with Tracy?

MWINE: That’s his love. And he will do, as we see, anything to try to get her back, and that’s what ends up taking him down the rabbit hole.

AX: Is Ronnie sort of balancing of wanting to be with Tracy and not wanting to face the fact that he killed the wrong person?

MWINE: It’s all intertwined. He loses everything. That one act that he’s hoping will bring his world together and bring amends or create a salve of some sorts actually tears the wound open deeper, and he’s left alone having to sort through all of that. I think he is so in love, and so willing to try to prove his love, that as hard as it is, he thinks, “Let me just get the answer for this.” I don’t know that he intentionally goes out to kill the kid.

AX: When you first read the script for the episode where Ronnie finds out that he killed an innocent youth, did you ask the producers/director if he immediately believes it when he hears it, or does he just know it in his heart. When he’s told, he reacts as though, “This is true.”

MWINE: Right. He’s devastated, because as difficult as it was, he thought maybe there was some sort of vengeance that was served. But then when he realizes, no, we get to see the whole season unfold because of the impact, the result that it has, the effect that it has, on every single character.

AX: When you got involved in THE CHI, were you drawn to it more by the character of Ronnie, or by the whole environment?

MWINE: The package. Hearing about the whole team, and knowing the folks that were involved, I just felt lucky to be included in that. But the role of Ronnie is more complicated than anything I’ve ever had the opportunity to play on television. So that in itself was a huge challenge, and it was also daunting.

AX: Have you done a lot of stage?

MWINE: I have. The last time I was in Chicago, I was doing a lead role at the Steppenwolf Theatre, back in 1995. So it’s incredible to come back twenty years later.

AX: In a stage play, you may do it over just as long a period of time as a TV series shoots, but it’s the same script every night, whereas with a TV series, you get a new script every week. Do you enjoy getting to refine that one script on stage, or do you enjoy going from script to script with a series?

MWINE: What’s great about TV is discovering that magical moment and capturing it on film, and discovering each new episode, basically. It’s getting to do a new play. That’s what’s thrilling.

AX: Do you have any other projects going on we should know about?

MWINE: I’m also a filmmaker, so I have a short film I’m working on, I’m in the process of developing, and I’ve made a few films that have been doing well on the festival circuit. I’m doing my own stuff as well.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about THE CHI?

MWINE: I would like for them to know that this is a window into a world that we don’t get to see often, and this is a brainchild of Lena Waithe. If you are a fan of Common, then I think you’ll be a fan of the show.

This interview was conducted during Showtime Network’s portion of the Winter 2018 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

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ArticleTHE CHI: Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine – exclusive interview

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