Powerhouse principal provides 'Boston' pop

The first year of school is over for Chi McBride, and he’s savoring a well-deserved summer vacation.

As principal Steven Harper on Fox’s “Boston Public,” a majority of the storylines go through McBride, translating into 70 hours a week on the set.

That, of course, also means more public exposure and the Chicago-born actor says he’s enjoyed the notoriety the role of the no-nonsense Harper has brought him. Except, of course, when he’s at a restaurant.

“It’s at quite a different level,” says McBride of the added stares and glances he receives. “People are very sweet and complimentary. It takes two seconds out of my life to acknowledge someone who’s appreciative of my work. I usually never mind people coming up to me, except when I’m eating.”

This is all quite a departure from the last time McBride starred in a series. Oh, you don’t remember? Well, since “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer” lasted only three episodes in 1998, it’s not surprising.

From early exit to early Emmy talk. Who says the TV biz isn’t ironic?

“It would be extremely gratifying and overwhelming (to be considered for an Emmy) but it’s a two-edged sword,” says McBride. “I don’t know how I could say my work would be better than someone else’s on the show but I guess that’s not for me to say.”

McBride is quick to acknowledge series creator David E. Kelley for thinking to cast an African-American in a position of power.

“That’s something that doesn’t get talked about enough. Steven Harper is one of the most important black characters ever and nobody’s talking about it,” McBride says.

With a renewal already set for “Boston Public,” McBride is quick to talk about where his character might find himself as school reopens in the fall. It was rare to find him outside the halls of Winslow High School, but next season there might be opportunities to delve into Harper’s personal life.

“I think that’s certainly possible,” he says. “There’s so much to offer and so much to mine.”

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