Interview: Let's Go To Prison's Chi McBride

Let's Go to Prison was not screened for critics, so we actually had to find out basic character details from the cast. The trailers show Chi McBride seducing poor, falsely accused Will Arnett in his prison cell. But McBride assured us there's more to his part than funny rape.

"The guy is the head of one of the gang factions in the prison so a lot of people have to answer to him," said McBride. "It's really about this guy, Nelson [Arnett], understanding that having a lot of money doesn"t mean anything once all that's taken away from you and you"re put into a different set of rules and a different hierarchy. It's about his coming to grips with that but mostly it's a comedy, man. It's a thing for you to sit down and just laugh out loud at. If you"re into this kind of humor, it's going to be fantastic for you to watch."

So maybe it's not McBride's Shawshank redemption. "I don't know if I"ll be redeemed for it but there's definitely a Shawshank," he joked.

Though the trailers are already playing up the reluctant man on man romance, McBride suggests that it may not be uncomfortably graphic. "It's the implications that you play. It's the nature of a relationship and you just treat it like anything else. You treat it like if it was a girl. We"re actors so our job is to play the role and make you believe it. Again, mostly in the implications are what you play and that's what makes it real."

Maybe this film isn"t about specifics. McBride doesn"t even know what his character was in the slammer for. "I never found out but if he got out, obviously it wasn"t too bad. I would assume it was for some sort of assault I would imagine. But no lives were lost in the making of this movie."

Known on television for his dramatic work, McBride is actually a natural comedian. Every few years, he has to remind Hollywood. "That's the funny thing about this business. I started out doing nothing but comedy. The first time I had a chance to do something dramatic was for a thing I did on HBO with the Hudlin brothers, and the first thing everybody said was, "He can"t do drama." So after I did that and as the course of my career continued and I ended up doing Boston Public, we were getting ready to do Undercover Brother and Malcolm Lee pitched me to the producer, Brian Grazer, like "Oh yeah, Chi McBride, he's a great actor. I watch Boston Public every week. He's not funny." So you go back and forth re-educating people about what it is that you do. I don"t like to be in any kind of a box or pigeonhole, whatever people are calling it these days. I try to choose what I"m going to do based on the material. If it moves me then I want to get down with it. If not, then I pass on it. I don't think I have any experiences, maybe one, where I did it for any other reason."

It's also easy for McBride to bounce between genres because he doesn"t get all actor-y about the drama either. "I"m not one of these actors who if I"m playing a cop, I go ride along with homicide detectives. I"m not getting my ass shot off to do a movie, man. A lot of it is if that's their process, that's their process. It's not for me. For me, it's all pretend. I guess there's a fair amount of preparation I guess, but I always think the realer it is, the funnier it is. That's why I choose those kinds of comedies. The realer you play it, when you try to make it funny, it's never funny to me."

The Nine continues to showcase McBride's talents, including his chameleon-like powers. "I was able to transform myself as a character and oftentimes when you start talking to producers about using wigs and moustaches and glasses and all that stuff, they freak out. Hank and K.J. to their credit have been right on board with me since the beginning. From the time they offered me this show, I knew how I wanted this character to look. They enabled me to create this character that I could really just kind of hide behind and that mostly is the creative thing. It really is so satisfying. I look different than I"ve ever looked and I think that I"m doing some of the most creative work that I"ve done since I"ve been on television. For that I"m really, really grateful. It's great to do a character like this, because while I was doing this, I had to do some reshoots for Prison and I had to do some stuff on The Brothers Solomon which I like working with this director, Bob Odenkirk so much I did another picture with him. But doing The Nine has been just creatively so rewarding. Every actor wants to be able to find a character that they can just melt into and it doesn"t look like them."

Let's Go to Prison is now playing.