Showtime's Chicago-shot 'The Chi' brings redemption, change in Season 3
Ronnie Davis was always the kind of guy who was his own worst enemy.
Though well-intentioned, the character played by Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine in the Showtime drama "The Chi" always seemed to find trouble, whether it was a life of substance abuse and addiction or getting entangled in gun violence endemic to his South Side Chicago neighborhood.
But as Season 3 opens Sunday, June 21, Ronnie appears to be on a path toward healing and redemption, the result of being forgiven by Brandon (former cast member Jason Mitchell) for the death of his younger brother in Season 1 and forgiving his estranged father for deserting him as a child in the Season 2 finale.
It's a change in direction for the character that Mwine finds most welcome.
"I think what happened in Seasons 1 and 2," he says, "was that Ronnie would take one step forward and two steps back. His heart was in the right place, but his actions would always take him to that third rail and he'd land in trouble. I think this season was unique in the sense that it wasn't that pattern, and I'm grateful to the writers because that can become predictable."
As Ronnie embarks on his new journey, other characters face challenges. Emmett (Jacob Latimore) finds juggling the demands of business and a growing family a struggle, while Kevin (Alex Hibbert) tries to make a fresh start at his new school. Jake's (Michael V. Epps) estranged brother Trig (Luke James) returns to town and Douda (Curtiss L. Cook) announces a run for mayor of Chicago.
Gone are Brandon (Mitchell, who was fired for misconduct) and girlfriend Jerrika (Tiffany Boone, who left the show), whose absences are explained early on.
As for Mwine, he's enjoying filming the series in Chicago and is heartened by the reception he and his castmates have gotten from locals. As someone who grew up playing hockey in New England, he initially had reservations about portraying someone from as polar opposite a background as Ronnie, but the feedback he's received indicates they've gotten it right.
"I could not walk a few blocks without getting stopped on the street," Mwine says, "and it really felt like a celebration of the show in a way that hadn't felt like (in) previous seasons because the word was out, people were familiar with it and had seen it or had worked on it.
"And that's what's great about shooting on location," he continues, "is that most of the people who are working on the show are from Chicago and there was a mandate this year and in the second season as well, to employ youth and kids from (a local school), to bring students in from there, so they really were integrated with the community. ... It was great to feel a part of that."