Chi McBride, the veteran actor who has appeared on a wealth of television series including “Boston Public,” “The Nine” and “Pushing Daisies,” stars in Fox’s “Human Target” as Laverne Winston, a former police officer with the San Francisco Police Department who has since left the force to form an elite security agency with reckless ex-assassin Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) and ruthless fixer Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley). But as the show embarks on its second season, Winston’s life quite literally hangs in the balance: the character was last seen held captive by an old enemy of Chance’s, leaving our hero and Guerrero with the daunting task of rescuing their colleague.
Winston’s fate is resolved within the first episode of the new season, titled “Ilsa Pucci,” but his capture results in a massive shift in the dynamic between himself, Chance and Guerrero – so much so that the remainder of the hour focuses on getting the gang back together.
“Everyone is kind of scattered to the four winds,” McBride told CBR News during an interview on the “Human Target” set in Vancouver. “Because of that, I think the guy is pretty much just in a holding pattern – and nobody likes that. When the opportunity comes to get the band back together, they’re different people as a result of this whole experience.”
That opportunity knocks courtesy of Ilsa Pucci, a recently widowed billionaire played by Indira Varma. Ilsa becomes a benefactor to Chance’s agency after serving as one of his clients. “We all know how guys like to take orders from women, especially when they’ve got a billion dollars,” said McBride. “It’ll be very interesting to see how they all come together and work together, especially now that they have a new boss.”
When it comes to Winston’s perspective on the team’s new employer, McBride said that his character is forced to reconcile Ilsa’s relative newness to the spy game with her vast wealth of resources. “Having a boss and a woman who has absolutely no experience in any kind of law enforcement, protection, fire arms, dealing with the fact [is] kind of a pain in the ass, but she’s got a billion dollars! You gotta pick your battles,” he said. “It’s always interesting watching people navigate a relationship, and all of us are from different walks of life and different kinds of backgrounds and experiences – I don’t know what it’s like to have a 30,000 square foot house, so those people have different sets of problems and challenges than people who don’t [have that]. That’s what it is: the merging and meshing of people who come from different walks of life.”
Although the Notorious B.I.G. claimed that with more money comes more problems, there’s also the argument that more money means more toys. “[Ilsa’s investment] gives them more resources and more of an ability to do what they do,” said McBride. “Surveillance is a big thing with them, and so is being able to travel and move quickly. Transportation, surveillance, information gathering and what have you – these are of paramount importance, and money changes everything. I think it exposes us to a different level of clientele of both bad guys and good guys. It opens up the idea that when people get more money, they think they’re above a lot of different things. They’ll probably bend a lot more rules because they have money.”
The well-to-do Ilsa isn’t the only newcomer to Winston’s world, as he’s also paid a visit by a figure from his past: Ames, a young thief played by Janet Montgomery with plenty of talent but not a lot of life experience. “Winston has a crusader-like complex, and she was the one who kind of got away,” said McBride. “When people have that sort of complex, it’s because they have something wrong with them, not because there’s something wrong with the people that they choose to save. We’ll see a little bit more of that. I don’t think he’s in the trying to save Ames business anymore, but the history of their past informs their behavior in the present and possibly in the future.”
But even with the addition of Ilsa and Ames, McBride feels that the show still hinges on the original trio of Chance, Winston and Guerrero. “I think it’s still a core group,” he said. “These ladies have enhanced the show and made it more interesting, adding another thing for these guys to deal with. It adds conflict to a situation and makes for good television and good storytelling.”
That said, McBride is aware that the introduction of new characters could damage the balance set by the show’s core trio. “You don’t know if it’ll work,” he confessed. “The Bee Gees were three guys – do you want to see the Bee Gees Orchestra? I don’t know, maybe you do. Maybe it’s the greatest thing since sliced cheese, or maybe it stinks on fucking hot ice. The only way you know is if you try it. I think that giving these guys a female dynamic to play off of, having a boss when everybody is pretty much an independent contractor so to speak, we’ll see. I think [executive producer and show runner Matt Miller] has done a really great job of fleshing out these new characters and giving the three of us more of a character history and more depth as characters.”
Indeed, if there’s one thing that McBride expects to see in the second season of “Human Target,” it’s character development. “The only way TV is worth doing for five years as an actor, I think, is if you’ve got something to play for five years,” he said. “More so this year, there will be a lot more character development. That’s good for any show. I think that last year, we made a huge investment in mythology. That’s fine for the first season, but I don’t think you can make five years of that. It’s rare. That’s what books are for, it’s not what television is for.”
McBride illustrated his argument for character development over mythological advancement by pointing to “Lost,” a show that dabbled in both elements with great frequency. “My old lady and I were watching ‘Lost,’ and in the third episode, Jack sees his dead father. We both looked at each other and went, ‘Oh, they’re all fucking dead,'” he recalled. “We watched for five years because the characters were interesting and the stories were incredible – it was really well-acted, every story was great, every actor was running on all eight cylinders. That’s what makes people watch. It’s not the secrets of what the island holds – who gives a fuck? What I care about is what’s going to happen to Jin and Sun, you know what I mean? It’s the same thing with this show. It’s about why Winston does this, that or the other, it’s not about what secrets lie within a secret league of assassins – who gives a shit? People want to have characters that they can identify with and go on a ride with. That’s what works on TV.”
And as far as McBride is concerned, it’s working on “Human Target” – so far, at least. “Matt’s a really good showrunner,” said the actor. “He has some really excellent ideas, and so far, he’s been very adept at executing them. I really like the direction he’s taken the show in. I think it will do exactly the right thing to satisfy what I would look for in a show. It’s a lot easier to do thirteen hours of television than it is to do twenty-two. We hope to get twenty-two, but there’s a challenge in keeping things exciting for almost half a year. But I think Matt’s up for it. He has some really good ideas. He’s really good at writing characters and giving these people some depth, so I think it’s going to be great. I think it’s going to be a heightened experience in terms of watching the show and in terms of making the show. It’s going to be cool.”
The second season of “Human Target” premieres Wednesday (November 17) at 8/7 PM central on Fox.