As children, innocent and playful reveries paint our days with laughter and happiness. We envisage about everything, from imaginary friends to superpowers to ruling nations the world over. There are infinite, innumerable possibilities that run through our heads without boundaries or we fixate on a singular idea: what will we be when we’re grown up.

Long before Hosea Chanchez became a breakout luminary and influential player on BET’s The Game, he had a dream of becoming a venerable actor. With a dynamic propensity for making individuals laugh and an undeniable cinematic lust for the big screen, the Alabama-born star, raised in Atlanta, wouldn’t allow his vision to dry up like Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. One could say that this star-in-the-making was a matter of destiny. “Since I was a child, it was second nature for me to make people smile and make people laugh,” the impassioned, yet jocular and unassuming star admitted in a phone interview with GALO. “And I was good at it. I was a really shy kid — oddly enough — but really entertaining.”

His need to turn his intangible potential into an acting career would drive him to evolve and transmogrify into one of television’s current great main attractions. Using the stage, small screen and big screen alike as his mediums, Chanchez has landed knee-deep and raced through a diverse array of characters like Angelo Owens on a guest-starring episode of The Shield. But, of course, he seems best known for portraying the blatantly audacious, ostentatious pro-football player, Malik Wright, on the beloved series since 2006. Though the show’s trajectory has had a high-publicized ebb and flow — a 2008 cancellation on the CW network, a return to television on BET in 2011, and longtime cast members Tia Mowry- Hardrict and Pooch Hall’s departure — Chanchez’s character has had made an abiding, popular impression on his fans.

But perhaps most importantly, the character (or rather some of his complexities) has had a formative effect on Chanchez. Learning to not look at his role subjectively has opened up a new expansive world of perspective about what makes his character tick, and brought with it, sagacity. Though he sometimes uses laughter as a launching point to talking about Malik, Chanchez has come to value the character’s loyalty (specifically his fidelity to other people) and learned several lessons in the process.

With The Game’s hour-long season premiere on Tuesday, March 4 on BET, the standout star opened up about the quintessential traits of his character. Chanchez even shed light on his philanthropy, talent for gastronomy and future acting plans. In other words, Chanchez told GALO how he stays in “The Game.”

GALO: Your character, Malik Wright on BET’s The Game has had quite an attention-grabbing trajectory over the last six seasons. When we first met him, he was all about the over-the-top and grandiose debauchery of being a pro-football player. But in seasons two and three, the character found himself crestfallen after he divorced Robin Givens, felt mired in the media blitz about athletes being held accountable for their negative actions as role models, and dealt with homophobia alongside learning tolerance. In more recent seasons, Malik has battled with substance abuse issues, as well as even felt that he was in love. Can you tell us what you have personally learned from playing such an animated, audacious character with a behemoth presence and insatiable appetite for life?

Hosea Chanchez: One of the biggest things I have learned that really applies to my life is to not be so judgmental. In doing research about these guys and athletes, you get to learn a lot about the humanity behind the players; so often, we really don’t get to see what they’re really like, unless there’s a scandal involved in their lives. For me, I do research and really try to understand more about athletes and their position in general. It’s taught me to have a lot more compassion and understanding for something outside of my own personal life. It was really hard at a certain time for me to play this character. I had this role since I was 24 and I’m 33 now. It’s literally been nearly a decade of me trying to understand more about the character and take the character to another level. In the beginning, I was subjectively looking at it as he was a character and I was myself.

More recently, I started to understand in the past two years; I started to understand more about just the person behind the character — building the character based off of my own experiences, and not just seeing him from the standpoint of Malik. He’s taught me that journey to be more understanding and to not judge my character. That’s what actors — the really, really good actors — will tell you, that they try their hardest not to judge their characters because judgment gets in the way of really living the character out and what the character is supposed to be. I have come to a better understanding about forgetting and self-awareness and acceptance.

GALO: Oftentimes, it appears that Malik is focused on style over substance. But throughout the series, Mr. Wright has had very seminal relationships with his mom, Tasha Mack and friend, Tee Tee. As viewers, we may look for a way to peel back the layers on your character. If we viewed Malik on a deeper level, what principles does the character live by?

HC: Well, loyalty is one of the things that you’ll notice about this character. He is loyal; Malik cares about you and he rides for you. That’s something that he was taught in Richmond, California and by his mom — being a single mom raising him at a young age. Malik is a loyal friend at the end of the day. He’s really passionate about everything that he does. It translates to something that’s really aggressive, agitated or strong in a way, because it’s really revolved around passion. And those are the two things that I learned most — that he’s really passionate and he’s loyal. He’s really loyal.

GALO: Are those governing values ones that you share with Malik?

HC: He’s a mama’s boy [laughs]. That’s obvious. Absolutely, those are two things [loyalty and passion] that I live by. I’m either your best friend, or your worst enemy. Loyalty is something that I definitely stand by. I stand by that in my everyday life and with my friendships, relationships and family. They know that if I’m nothing else, I’m a loyal man. And I believe in passion; I believe in passion and in purpose in everything that I do, so I try to make sure to maintain a level of connection. I will definitely say I have those two traits, and I’m not a mama’s boy — I’m a grandmama’s boy.

GALO: It seems like Malik often stirs up controversy and feels stagnated during very turbulent times. Can you describe a few of the roadblocks that have stunted the character’s growth?

HC: The road blocks that have stunted his growth…Wow, that’s an interesting question that I’ve never ever thought about. You know, I think, honestly, back to a time where again, I judged him. And I think that one of the characteristics that keep Malik in his same position with the same oppositions consistently is the simple fact that he is stubborn and he is a very selfish person. Although loyal and passionate, he is selfish. It’s a double-edged sword because he is a leader, but he is a selfish leader. Everything that the guy does is really for himself; one of the reasons why I continue to want to play the character is because I want him to make a change in his decisions to being selfless, because that opens up a whole new realm of life for him. I want to know what it’s like for him to share his life, and not just for him, but share things with other people — a spouse, a relationship, a peer or something. I’d like to see him do things outside of himself and be more selfless.

A lot of times, I feel like he is so self-serving and so selfish in a way; that to me, stunts any man’s growth, and it doesn’t matter who you are. It keeps you from unleashing the other end of what your life has to offer, which is the freedom. And there’s a whole new set of rules for freedom than there is for the selfishness that he lives in. That’s one of the things that I look forward to happening with him in the future at some point in time — for him to be living in that selfish-less zone.