BET’s hit dramedy The Game returns for its 6th season tomorrow night. Aside from the departure of the show’s beloved couple, Melanie and Derwin (played by Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Pooch Hall), it’s the usual suspects and their drama, especially football player and resident bad boy Malik Wright, played by actor Hosea Chanchez, who promises we’ll see a different man on our screens this season.
ESSENCE.com spoke with Chanchez about Malik’s growth, Mowry-Hardrict and Hall’s sudden departure from the show last year, and whether or not he shares any traits with his on-screen character.
ESSENCE.com: What is Malik up to this season?
HOSEA CHANCHEZ: This is the results season for Malik and it leads to a nice rebirth for him. He gets to hash out his dream again but you’ll also see a lot of consequences for the choices he’s made in the past, which shows that you can’t get away with much in life.
ESSENCE: Now that Derwin (Pooch Hall) and Melanie (Tia Mowry-Hardrict) are gone, is Malik going to be the lead?
CHANCHEZ: Malik is the Jack among the Kings in a way, and it does feel like a little more responsibility. Oddly enough, we never really had any leads on the show. We all pretty much shared the workload. Melanie and Derwin were the identifiable characters on the show, but we’ve always been an ensemble.
ESSENCE: Their relationship seemed to be examined more than Malik’s relationships.
CHANCHEZ: Well, Malik’s counterpart is really Tasha Mack (played by Wendy Raquel Robinson). You can only be in a scene with your mom for so long before it gets old, being the 25-year-old guy.
ESSENCE: Do Malik and Hosea share any similar traits?
CHANCHEZ: I do everything from an honest place. I’m at an age in my life where I’m really unapologetic for the man that I am and the man that I want to be, and I think Malik shares that same similarity. I appreciate that about him because it’s something that you really have to grow to become. The biggest thing I have in common with Malik is his love for his mom. Tasha Mack is his road dog. My mom and I grew up together. She was young when she had me so she was just trying to have her own career and her own life. Unlike Malik, I had my grandparents to help raise me, but I know what it’s like to be a young guy with a young mom who’s just trying to figure out her own life and raise a boy.
ESSENCE: Malik has a lot of groupies. Does Hosea get a lot of groupies?
CHANCHEZ: [Laughs] Hosea has a lot of admirers. I wouldn’t say groupies.
ESSENCE: You are personal friends with Tia Mowry-Hardrict. What was it like being on set without her and Pooch Hall this season?
CHANCHEZ: It was especially hard during the first week because we are close and have worked together for such a long time. It was really weird, but the good thing about it was that I got to know Jay [Ellis] and Lauren [London] better and the character got to know them better as well.
ESSENCE: How did you find out they were no longer coming back to the show?
CHANCHEZ: I think I’d gotten a call from them and along the line there had been rumors here and there, and things being said that we all knew that there was a huge possibility that it was going to happen. I really felt, in a way, like it happened to me too because I didn’t really know what was going to happen. It just really was an eye-opener for myself as an actor, and as an artist about how things change in this business. Luckily, I didn’t have too much time to dwell on it because I had too many things going on in my own life, so I couldn’t really take too much time to sit and process it. But it did feel like it was a part of me that left also.
ESSENCE: Do you hope to bust out with 7 million viewers like your last season premiere in 2012?
CHANCHEZ: No, I really don’t. I don’t think we have to do that again. That was a moment in time and it was a pause in history. It doesn’t really need to be repeated. I hope people do show up to watch the show for sure, but I don’t anticipate 7.7 million people will try to figure out what the show is about. We didn’t have 7 million viewers at The CW, but coming to BET it was a whole new audience of people who wanted to know what The Game was about, so there were some older people and some newer people that came together.
ESSENCE: How’s that mystery girlfriend of your?
CHANCHEZ: She’s cool. Relationships are so challenging, though. One of the biggest challenges in my life has been commitment, which leads into other areas of your life and you don’t realize. At the age I am right now and the awareness that I have, I’ve learned that you just don’t get away with anything like that because you have to be accountable for everything. It all comes back around and it leads somewhere else in your life and you still have to deal with whatever the issue is.
ESSENCE: Is marriage on the horizon?
CHANCHEZ: I hope so. Yes, marriage and a family. I would hate to just be living my life with just me.
Catch Chanchez on season 6 of The Game, premiering tomorrow, March 26, at 9 p.m. on BET.