Some television shows make your heart race — they make you gasp for breath as you anticipate the next twist and turn. Then, there are shows that speak to your soul; they seep into your consciousness dredging up long forgotten memories. In her outstanding drama series, The Chi, Golden Globe winner Lena Waithe give the South of Chicago back to its people.
Told in a cinéma vérité style, The Chi shows everyday folks scratching, surviving and most importantly, living. Layering an extensive character study with a coming-of-age tale, Waithe seamlessly connects the lives of Emmett (Jacob Lattimore), Brandon (Jason Mitchell), Kevin (Alex R. Hibbert), and Ronnie (Ntare Mwine). We watch as they confront themselves, their Black manhood, and one another after a violent event interlocks their lives forever. Over the course of the ten-episode first season, it’s Ronnie that makes the biggest transformation – leading him down a path that even Ntare Mwine didn’t see coming.
As I stepped into the infamous Blue Moon Café in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene, I spotted Mwine seated near a window with a cup of tea in his hand; the actor stood as I approached. Unlike his character, Mwine’s face was bare, Ronnie’s infamous goatee and haunted eyes were gone for the moment. Instead, a bright and warm gaze greeted me. Mwine was eager to chat about the role that has changed his life most unexpectedly. The New York University alum wasn’t apart of the original cast of The Chi, nor was Ronnie a role he thought he could tackle. “I came on board the second round in the regular audition process,” he remembered. “It was a role that I’d never done before, so I didn’t think I was right for the part. But the casting director, Carmen Cuba, cast me in the show, The Knick, so I went. The audition scene was Ronnie high — smoking on the couch. I had no idea how to even play this. I couldn’t see myself doing it. I literally went to the audition just to thank Carmen for casting me in The Knick, because it had opened up so many other doors. I didn’t do a great audition. I walked out and went back to the car. I got a call from my agent, saying, “She thinks you’re right for the role, but she doesn’t want to submit the tape she made, she thinks you can do a better tape.” (Carmen) asked me to do a self-tape, but I was going to Uganda for the holidays. (I) came back, and never did the self-tape because I thought, “I’d love to do it, but I’m not right. They’re gonna find someone from Chicago to do it.”
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