The Men of 'The Game' Raise the Stakes in Season Five
Pooch Hall, Hosea Chanchez and Coby Bell dish on the new season and working with Brandy
After last year’s premiere where a record 7.7 million people tuned in, the largest ever for a cable TV sitcom season debut, The Game returns for it's fifth season tonight at 10 p.m. ET/PT on BET. The drama-filled series centers on the stars of a fictional football team, the San Diego Sabers, but the field is only the backdrop. The real focus of The Game revolves around the personal relationships between the players and the women in their lives. The cover-your-mouth drama continues this season with 22 episodes as Melanie Barnett-Davis copes with her husband Derwin discovering an alleged abortion while Malik Wright discovers his intoxicated ex-girlfriend Jenna at his front door.
There's also a new yet recognizable face on this season's cast, R&B singer Brandy Norwood, who plays sassy bartender Chardonnay. She has her eye on newly single Jason Pitts, who divorced his wife Kelly in Season Three. Other familiar faces you might see around San Diego include Dallas Mavericks' Shawn Marion, Grammy Award winner Estelle, former Victoria Secret model Selita Ebanks, and Real Housewives of Atlanta's Nene Leakes.
Loop 21 caught up with the male stars of The Game – Hosea Chanchez (Malik Wright), Pooch Hall (Derwin Davis) and Coby Bell (Jason Pitts) – in New York where they dish on Season Five, how they feel working with Brandy, and who they think will take the Super Bowl this year.
Loop 21: Hosea, last season was a nightmare for Malik. He slept with the team owner's wife and avoided serving time for a DUI and assaulting a police officer by checking into rehab. What happens this season?
Hosea Chanchez: He’s having a continued downward spiral from last season, but look for a turnaround. He has his ups and downs. My goal is to make sure it is authentic to the NFL; the good and the bad. I also strive to please the fans even if sometimes it doesn’t make sense.
Loop 21: Pooch, last season Derwin became the Sabers’ superstar. What is the status of your marriage to Melanie this season?
Pooch Hall: Melanie and Derwin go through all the marital trials and tribulations. It’s a work in progress. I’m a pro athlete and I get caught up in the fame and the hype. I am the Kobe Bryant of the NFL. I am focused on my career. My wife can’t deal with that and that causes problems with the relationship. But I know that behind every great man is a great woman and she helped me get where I am to become the franchise player for the team.
Coby Bell: Notice how Pooch stays in character even in an interview. As he talks, he’s Derwin.
Hall: I’m focused!
Loop 21: Give me an insight about Coby and Hosea on the set.
Hall: Coby has razor sharp sarcasm. He can cut you with his comments. They are stiletto sharp.
Chanchez: Coby is the nicest guy on the set. His sarcasm is not that bad.
Hall: Both of them are the opposite of their characters. Jason has a huge ego, Coby does not. Unlike his character Malik who has anger issues and would throw a helmet in the locker room, Hosea knows how to channel and curb his anger. When he gets angry and is about to express it, he catches himself and just mellows out.
Loop 21: This is the second season on BET. Compare working with BET to being on the CW Network where the series lived for the first three seasons before being cancelled.
Bell: Once BET got the show they knew how to market it, made it work and blew it up. It is wonderful to get the recognition now.
Loop 21: Last season Jason was cut from the team and became a TV sports reporter. He’s still single and this season he’s experiencing the single life again with a new woman in his life.
Bell: Jason was not an easy person to be married to. He’s very egotistical. Things fell apart with his former wife Kelly and now he has a new love interest in Brandy, who plays a bartender named Chardonnay. She aggressively comes after him, which is interesting because he has to examine how he feels about black women after being married to a white woman.
Loop 21: What has been the chemistry with Brandy coming in as a brand new character?
Bell: I identify with her coming into an established series as a new character because that’s what I did in Burn Notice. It was on for three seasons and I came in and had to find my way and get into the flow. I love how she has come in for our fifth season and fit right in. She is always on top of what’s going on. She’s never half-steppin’; always well prepared; very professional. She is a joy to work with. I’ve been talking to her about collaborating on another TV series as well so look out for that.
Loop 21: Pooch, how do you feel about Brandy being added to the cast?
Hall: I am a huge fan. I saw Brandy in Hollywood even before she joined the show and I told her that before every audition I had I would play her song “What About Us” constantly on repeat. I would just sing the hook. Hosea told me, 'Hey Pooch, learn the lyrics.' I am thrilled to have her on the show.
Loop 21: Coby, you are one of the hardest working men on television. In addition to The Game, as you mentioned you also star on the USA series Burn Notice. Describe how you juggle two series being shot in different cities while also being a husband and father with two sets of twins.
Bell: This season The Game started shooting just before Burn Notice and then for two weeks I was doing both shows, which was crazy going from Atlanta where The Game is shot to Miami to shoot Burn Notice. Fortunately this season the schedules were different so I didn’t have to fly back and forth so much, but it keeps me busy. Then when I have free time I fly to L.A. to see my wife and kids. I only agreed to do two series if I could go home every weekend to be with my family. I’ll have two months after The Game wraps production to be home before Burn Notice begins again so I’ll be happy to be home with the people I love.
Loop 21: You have a music background. What are your music plans?
Bell: My father is a singer and I’ve always loved reggae. I had a reggae band after college but acting took off so music took a back seat as a hobby. I’m recording and working toward coming out with my own music as well so stay tuned. I am hoping to develop a movie about a musician that I will star in so I can combine my love of acting and music.
Loop 21: The NFL playoff began last weekend and now eight teams remain. Who are you picking for the Super Bowl?
Hall: San Diego Sabers! (laugh) Wouldn’t that be a dream! My team is the Oakland Raiders. I love the Raiders. Obviously they are not in the playoffs. I’m from Massachusetts, played college football in Massachusetts, so I’m going with my home team, the New England Patriots. Tom Brady and the Pats are taking it all!
Loop 21: What are your expectations for tonight's premiere?
Hall: As far as the new season beginning tonight, I’m ready. I am pumped. Last season we set a record with 7.7 million viewers for the premiere. I want to top that. I want to break that record. I want at least 7.8 million tonight. If you’re not tuning in, you’re losing!