Pronounced "shy," like the colloquial term for his hometown of Chicago, Chi McBride didn't get into acting until he was 30 years old. He is probably most recognized for his role as principal Steven Harper on Fox's Boston Public. Before his first movie, he worked for a phone company, trained as a gospel singer, and joined the hip-hop band Covert. With McBride as a producer and vocalist, the band released their first and only album For Your Bootay Only in 1991. Not soon after, he started appearing as a guest star on Fox sitcoms, including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His feature-length debut happened a year later in Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation. Billed as simply Chi, he then gained small roles for the Eddie Murphy movie The Distinguished Gentleman and the Tina Turner story What's Love Got to Do With It?
In 1993, McBride found a spot for himself on NBC for The John Larroquette Show, playing the janitor Heavy Gene. Teaming up next with the Hudlin brothers, he then appeared in the HBO Twilight Zone-style trilogy Cosmic Slop, hosted by George Clinton. His next few diverse projects were supporting roles in Peter Jackson's horror comedy The Frighteners, Bill Duke's period crime flick Hoodlum, and the action thriller Mercury Rising.
McBride's first leading role came in the form of the short-lived and controversial UPN sitcom The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, playing the stuffy English title character who was mistakenly enslaved to Abraham Lincoln. After appearances in Gone in 60 Seconds and Disney's The Kid, he found his well-known spot on Boston Public. While gaining high marks for his role on the David E. Kelley drama, McBride parlayed his increased notoriety into a number of higher-profile big-screen roles.
2002 found McBride as a police captain in the intense cop-thriller Narc, and the over-the-top Chief in the comedy Undercover Brother. And while the following year saw Boston Public cancelled, the free-time afforded to McBride by the show's end only allowed him to sign on to roles in two of 2004's most anticipated films, the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks dramedy The Terminal and I, Robot, an action sci-fi flick starring Will Smith. Over the course of the next decade the reliable McBride became increasingly active on the small screen, essaying recurring roles on such hit shows as House and Pushing Daisies. Later, in 2012, he voiced the role of Nick Fury in the animated superhero series Ultimate Spider-Man.