Chi McBride TCA

Chi McBride of the CBS Drama “Golden Boy”

*Three episodes into the new CBS drama “Golden Boy” and it’s already apparent that the show’s main storyline – a young NYPD officer’s road to becoming the city’s youngest police commissioner – are at times upstaged by the relationship between the cop (Theo James) and his partner, played by Chi McBride.

Their partnership was never supposed to be a major part of the series, according to CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler. In fact, McBride was not even supposed to share top billing.

“When we bought the show last year, it was really designed and developed as a single-star vehicle, telling the story of a young man’s meteoric rise from a beat cop to the Police Commissioner of New York,” Tassler explained to journalists in January. “When we watched the pilot shoot, there was a palpable chemistry between Theo James and Chi McBride. So it was during shooting of the pilot, watching the shooting of the first episode, that you could see that this show was evolving into a different kind of show. A mentor/mentee relationship.

“You’ll see, it’s turned into a two-hander between these two actors. It’s extraordinary.”

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Created by Nick Wootton and “NYPD Blue” vet Greg Berlanti, “Golden Boy” averaged nearly 10 million viewers in its first three airings. The original plan was to run the first two shows on Tuesdays at 10 (sharing a night with CBS’ ratings monster “NCIS”) then move it to Fridays. But after the two Tuesday episodes managed to win their respective timeslots — no doubt assisted by the weak return of ABC’s “Body of Proof” and NBC’s sinking ship “Smash” — CBS decided to keep “Golden Boy” on Tuesdays, where it will air its fourth episode this week.

James, known to “Downton Abbey” fans as the dude who died in Lady Mary Crawley’s bed, says the interaction between his character, Det. Walter Clark, and McBride’s Det. Don Owen is “a little bit of art imitating life.”

“I’m a young English punk coming over, and Chi has been doing it for a long time. He’s a veteran. So there was a lot that we could learn from each other, and we had a good natural chemistry,” said James. But also Chi’s character, Owen, he’s not he’s not flawless either. And you see through the series that he can make mistakes as well.

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“Chi’s character is this old guy who’s kind of given up, and I’m bringing out the best in him. And then with me, he’s tempering my central morality between whether I choose the darker nature that Clark leans towards.”

Below, McBride gives his take on their on-screen chemistry, and why it was convincing enough to change the show’s entire narrative.