Actor Chi McBride’s childhood foreshadowed his career. The Chicago native spent as much time as he could in front of the television and never missed an episode of “The Carol Burnett Show” on CBS. McBride has worked and become friends with some of the most talented people in Hollywood like Eddie Murphy, Will Smith and Tom Hanks. Yet, the 56-year-old is still humble and grounded. Chi sees the bigger picture in life and the impact of his contribution to society, just like his character Captain Lou Grover on “Hawaii 5-0.”
McBride talked with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith ahead of tonight’s new episode of the show about his career, his friendship with Murphy and why it’s important to talk about topics that don’t get a lot of attention like suicide.
DJ Sixsmith: Who was your biggest influence in your early days as an actor?
Chi McBride: I don’t know, I think it was just the medium itself. I grew up basically a TV kid. I watched TV every chance I got. Of course, my parents being from the Caribbean would always say, “turn off that television boy, it will make your mind dull.” But at the same time, I watched everything. One of the happiest moments I’ve had since being in the business was meeting Carol Burnett. I used to watch “The Carol Burnett Show” every Saturday night on CBS. That whole CBS lineup was indelibly burned into my mind. I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be on television or in pictures, but I always felt like I could do it. There’s a shroud of mystery about how you get into show business, so I didn’t think about it in great detail. I felt like if I ever got an opportunity, I could do it and would do it.
DS: You mentioned meeting Carol Burnett. You’ve met and worked with a lot of talented and special people like Tom Hanks, Will Smith and Eddie Murphy. What have you learned about show business from these people?
CM: I’ve learned many lessons along the way. What show business has taught me more than anything is that in life everything is about perspective. We are capable in show business of making people see a perceived reality. It’s the same in life, everything is about perspective. I’ve had some great times with some great people. I’ve had a lot of wonderful conversations with people. In particular, I’ve had some really good conversations with Eddie Murphy. Eddie is a really good dude. I met him when I did a picture with him and I’ve known him for 25 years now. He’s been a really cool guy and he’s given me a lot of really good advice, known of which I will share. I think sometimes you have to keep something for yourself. There’s an intimacy between friends and everything is not for the public. There are a lot of people in Hollywood, who will tweet every random thought in their head. That’s not what I want to do.
DS: Let’s talk about “Hawaii Five-0. What has been the main reason for the show’s success?
CM: The audience. They tune in every week and the beautiful thing about Five-0 is that it’s shot so beautifully. It’s in such a beautiful location and people get to take a little trip to Hawaii every Friday night and I think they like that. It’s real escapist television, but at the same time we are able to now and then touch on a variety of subjects that don’t see a lot of light like human trafficking and suicide. Things that people don’t talk about and probably should and probably contemplate what their contribution could be to prevent it or stop it. It’s got the best of all world in terms of entertainment. It’s beautiful to look at, there’s comedy, there’s action, there’s adventure and a little bit of conscious stirring going on as well.
DS: On tonight’s episode, your character dives into the topic of suicide. What was it like to put this episode together?
CM: The episode affected me in a very profound and personal way. Aside from giving you more of an insight into the characters, this is a subject matter that is difficult to tackle and something that people tend to brush off. It’s sad to hear about and that’s about it. I hope this episode will encourage people to take a little closer look and look out for your brother or your sister because you just never know what asking a simple question like, “you ok” can do. We got to look out for each other. There’s so many people in this world including me, who find themselves being the go to person for all their friends for advice. If you have that skill and you have some free time, you could be an excellent candidate to be trained to work on a suicide prevention line. I can’t imagine a more rewarding experience than doing anything at all to contribute to a person not taking that final step because it truly is a final step.
DS: When you think about your character Captain Lou Grover, how has he grown throughout the show?
CM: From an audience perspective, you’ve gotten a deep dive into what makes this man tick and the things that he’s been through. We know that his first love in his whole life is his family. He loves his wife and loves his kids. He can sometimes be a very firm Dad, but he’s not in the business of being his kids’ best friend. He’s in the business of raising his kids. With Will in particular, he doesn’t look at him as raising a boy, but instead raising a man. He’s a really fine example of a person who albeit flawed, is a guy who completely buys in to making a positive contribution to society with his job and his family.
Watch “Hawaii Five-0” tonight at 9pm EST/PST.