Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine was initially “terrified” of “The Chi” because “it wasn’t a world I was familiar with, so I wasn’t sure that I could actually portray it.” The son of immigrants, Mwine knew nothing about the South Side of Chicago in which the Lena Waithe-created series is set. “We have issues of authenticity,” he explains, “which has been a big debate about who has the right to tell what story.” So when he auditioned for the Showtime ensemble drama, he “was actually scared.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Mwine above.
Mwine plays Ronnie, an unemployed man living with his grandmother (LaDonna Tittle) and desperately in love with Tracy (Tai Davis), who doesn’t share his feelings. When Tracy’s son is murdered she presses him to find out what happened, leading to a devastating decision. “What he does out of his love for this woman sends him down the rabbit hole,” Mwine says. Ronnie’s actions “set the journey for the rest of the season” and “affects the community that he lives in.”
Even after Mwine got the part “the fear was still there.” Playing Ronnie is “the first time I actually feel like I was trying acting. Usually, for most other work I’ve done, I’ve felt like I am the role” and could “walk into any setting and be the role and improvise.” Yet with Ronnie, “a lot of him is still a mystery,” not least of all because in the first season “we don’t know anything about his backstory.”
Mwine has also appeared in such shows as “Alias,” “ER,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Heroes,” “The Newsroom,” “Treme,” and “The Knick,” as well as the film “Queen of Katwe” (2016). His short film “Kuhani,” which he wrote, directed, and starred in, was nominated for the Best Narrative Short prize at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival.
“The Chi” also stars Jason Mitchell, Yolonda Ross, and Sonja Sohn and ended its 10-episode first season in March. It will be back for a second season.
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