Big-Time Actor Visits Parker

Ntare Mwine Speaks on His Upbringing and Career

Nathan Satterfield

Ntare Mwine is on the ground. Beaten in a public park, Mwine moans with pain as blood fills his mouth. He summons enough strength to lift his battered body and place his hand on a boy, clearly desperate for help. The boy, no older than 13, shoots Mwine in the stomach.

This is, of course, fictional. Mwine is acting. He plays the character of “Ronnie” on Showtime’s Emmy-winning television show “The Chi.”

As the leaves were falling on a brisk October morning, Ntare Mwine––an actor, playwright, director, and photographer––flew into Chicago to shoot scenes for the upcoming second of “The Chi.” After a tiring 7 a.m. flight from Los Angeles, he arrived O’Hare Airport and went straight to Francis W. Parker School.  

Mwine spoke and answered questions in Morning Ex interview led by Upper School Head Justin Brandon. Mwine was brought to Parker because of a personal relationship. He is married to Brandon’s godsister.

The MX kicked off with Brandon reading showcasing Mwine’s list of personal accolades. Then Brandon transitioned to a clip of Mwine’s latest project, “The Chi.”

The show displays a combination of tragic events: murders, gang activity, and drug use. The show is also thoughtful in depicting the highlights of the characters’ eccentric personalities and motives for their decisions. After a murder takes place, the characters are affected and their stories connect in different ways.

Ntare Mwine stars in the series as a mysterious old man, Ronnie. Despite his success, Mwine didn’t originally audition for the part of Ronnie. “At first, I didn’t think I fit the role,” Mwine said. “I thought I should’ve been the detective. I thought I would’ve had a much stronger shot at that.”

When he found out the role of Ronnie was his, he knew he had to approach the role differently than most. “I was born in New Hampshire, and my parents are from Uganda,” Mwine said. “So the world that Ronnie lives in or orbits around was totally foreign to me. So for me, that meant doing tons of research and still it is feeling foreign.” Luckily in the end, it really worked out for the best. “‘The Chi’ is a role that has really challenged my nature of creativity,” Mwine said.

As a child growing up with immigrant parents from Uganda in an academically-minded household, Ntare Mwine’s career path was different from what his parents expected. “My mother was a psychologist and my father was a lawyer,” Mwine said. “It’s interesting because I kind of did the exact opposite of what typical immigrant families want from their children.”  

The MX concluded with Brandon asking questions about Mwine’s upbringing. He grew up in a household that revered academic achievement.  His father was the first Ugandan to go to Harvard Law School, and his mother taught psychology at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

Although his parents are immigrants, he was born in the college town of Hanover, New Hampshire. Sticking with his roots, he was given an Ugandan name. Ntare is the name of the king of the Ancholi Kingdom, and his father is part of the royal family of the Ancholi Kingdom.

“Ntare means Lion, Guma means be strong,” Mwine said. “Mbaho means I am, and Mwine means I have God.” Mwine is invested in his African culture and, although born in America, has a dual citizenship in Uganda. He visits Uganda as much as possible and went to visit last summer with his family.

After the MX, there were six faculty-members in the hallway, eagerly waiting for Ntare Mwine to exit the building to get a chance to say hello.

“I thought the MX was great and I would’ve loved to talk to him afterwards,” Physical Education teacher Pat McHale said. “I think that the recounting of his life was very important for students to see because our cultural prejudice sees African Americans or Hispanic Americans as a certain way. It’s important to see and hear more stories of African-American men succeeding in America because unfortunately that’s something we don’t see in mainstream culture nowadays.“

Other students thought otherwise. “The overall format of the MX was weird,” senior Zoe Lairs-Djokovic said. “It looked like they were on ‘Ellen.’” Senior Isabel Bouhl agreed. “I think the speaker was very interesting, but the format was a bit off,” Bouhl said. “The entire MX seemed staged and weirdly tense.”

Both agree that they would’ve hoped to see more of Mwine speaking. “I wish they started with the movie clip,” Laris-Djokovic said. “Then the audience would’ve understood what they are getting themselves into. I would have also enjoyed more of a presentation of his than an interview format.” Bouhl and Lairs-Djokovic agreed that the speaker was interesting and his compelling lifestyle enhanced the MX. “I found it interesting that he went into his audition unconfidently and ended up getting the role,” Bouhl said.

As the MX was coming to an end, Mwine had a great deal of wisdom to espouse. The actor from Emmy Award-winning television show left the Parker community with these words: “If you go in without expectations, you experience the divine.” To see more of Mwine in the future, stay tuned for Season Two of “The Chi.”