Hawaii Five-0's Thanksgiving episode airs Friday and there's going to be a lot of drama on the table. The episode, titled "Lele pū nā manu like," (it translates to "Birds of a feather'") and follows what happens when Lou Grover (Chi McBride) has his family in town for a visit — family that includes his parents, played by veterans Louis Gossett Jr. and Gladys Knight, as well as his brother Percy Jr. played by Clifton Powell.
As holiday events can go for so many families, the Grovers' gathering isn't all good tidings and cheer: Lou and Percy have a contentious, testy relationship that almost brings the brothers to blows on what should be a unifying day. Amid all this, the Hawaii Five-0 team is struggling to piece together what looks like a robbery gone wrong but has more going on that meets the eye. The episode also marks the first McBride has written, and as he revealed in an interview with TV Guide, it's an experience he'll treasure forever.
What was it like writing your first episode? How'd it come about and how did it go for you?
Chi McBride: I enjoyed the experience immensely. It's the first one but it's not going to be my last. It really has sparked and inspired me to continue to pursue this because this is actually the career that I want. I'm very grateful for my career as an actor, but I never had the kind of creative fulfillment I had since I started writing. Hopefully there will be more stories on Five-0 and beyond that. I owe that all to (executive producer) Peter Lenkov. He gave me the opportunity to put something on the air. He was so generous and encouraging of my writing efforts. I was fairly confident I could pull off character and dialogue, but he was the driving force behind me getting into the most important part, which is story and formatting. Peter was invaluable. I consider [the experience] a treasure and I'll never forget it.
How much of the story — the sibling rivalry between Lou and Percy — was based on personal experience?
McBride: It's personal but it's not autobiographical. It's a mix of some things I've experienced. I have a cousin, his name is Alphaeus Jeffers — he doesn't want to be famous, so I'm going to make him famous — he's older than me. He taught me to drive, he taught me to talk to girls. Whenever my parents would say we were going to my grandmother's house it would make my skin crawl because I knew I he was going to spend the whole day kicking my ass. But if anyone outside the family even looked at me funny, you might end up in hospital. Because my cousin would protect me from any and everything. He's always been in my corner and encouraged my success and he means a lot to me. Part of this episode is my love letter to him. He made a man out of me. I wanted a story about a situation like that, but the difference is Lou hasn't given his brother credit for that. All he did was kind of look down on him because [Percy] has a questionable employment history, never had a real job, spent his whole life in the streets. I wanted to choose a subject for my first foray into writing that was going to be universal, something everyone can identify with, crossing the barriers we put up with each other. While we were shooting I got to be a fly on the wall and heard people saying, "I need to call my brother."
What was it like working with Lou Gossett Jr. and Gladys Knight?
McBride: Well, I'm not that sentimental and I'm not that high on myself where I'd be like, 'Look at them, saying my precious words!' It was my first time working with them and beyond the initial joy and satisfaction — I asked casting to reach out to them and hearing that they both read it, they loved it and wanted to do it, that was very gratifying. But you step out of that real quick because you have a job to do. They were both incredibly gracious. People overuse genius and legend; they were all that and more. When Gladys first showed up, she said she was a little nervous. I wasn't worried; I knew she could act. She was a lovely and sweet elegant woman. And tough. Because you know, Gladys is from Detroit, man. When she told me she was a little nervous I said, 'Well, can you be Gladys Knight?'
You've been in so many great shows, from Psych to Boston Legal to Pushing Daisies. How often do people come up to you and say, 'I know you from...?" and can't quite place it?
McBride: Yeah. That's my middle name: I'm "That Guy." Which is fine with me because I'm exactly as famous as I want to be, which is not very famous at all. It affords me a lot of peace of mind and my time is my own and I have the exact degree of privacy that I want. I love that people remember things I've done and they express it to me directly, that's great. You've got to be built for the type of fame some people I know have.
Which of the many shows that you've been on would you be most keen to see rebooted?
McBride: That's a very easy answer and that is Golden Boy. I really enjoyed that series. I have great affection for Nick Wootton and we had a very symbiotic relationship. We were pretty much joined at the hip in terms of writer and character and showrunner and actor. I loved the stories he was telling. Playing a detective in New York — New York is such a character itself. We were shooting one day and in the background literally someone was stealing a car. I wish that series could've continued. As a cast, I think we were clicking on all cylinders.
Hawaii Five-0 airs Friday, Nov. 16 at 9/8c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)