The Chief is one of the recurring characters in the Carmen Sandiego franchise. Though different in appearance and personality, each character is referred to only as Chief and is in charge of the ACME Detective Agency.
In the early games in the Carmen Sandiego series, the Chief was depicted as a mysterious man unseen by the player and usually communicated with detectives by computer. The Chief himself did not speak until the 1990 "Deluxe Edition" remake of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, where he spoke with a British accent that was complemented by a pompous and stern presence, but also with a somewhat eccentric sense of humor.
Game ShowsWhere in the World is Carmen Sandiego introduced a new chief played by late Lynne Thigpen. Unlike the previous chief, this one was visible and would always appear on a screen or hologram.
Thigpen first played the Chief in Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? game shows, and would reprise the character in video game form no less than three times, in the mid-late 90s remakes of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Where in the U.S.A. is Carmen Sandiego?. Thigpen's take of the Chief was tough and commanding and often easily frustrated, but also comedic, particularly in her interactions with her second-in-commands for the shows. However, the Chief had a sympathetic side toward the detectives, including Carmen, when the twist ending to "Where in Time…?" revealed that Carmen Sandiego used to be an ACME detective herself.
Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? introduced a new chief played by Rodger Bumpass. This chief is a computer AI depicted as a floating head. Instead of being the actual head of the ACME Detective Agency, the Chief was more of a supervisor/informant character designed to assist ACME Agents on their cases, deliver their instructions, and act essentially as their manager. Despite being little more than a computer program, the Chief had a humanlike, albeit eccentric, personality: inspired by Matt Frewer's character from "Max Headroom," this Chief was a fast-talking, energetic, cartoonish with a wild and zany sense of humor.
Unlike the other chiefs, this one has sentimental feelings for Carmen Sandiego from their days together at ACME, and, according to the Chief, he was the one who officially "gave her a home" at ACME. When Carmen turned to crime, this left the Chief upset, and the relationship between the two is often the subject of some episodes. Even though the Chief felt betrayed by Carmen, he never hated her, seemingly always hoping she would reform and return to ACME, or at least pay her debt to society with dignity. That doesn't stop him from doing all that he can to capture Carmen. As a joke, Carmen programs an evil version of him to oversee her training grounds. In one episode, "Follow My Footprints," the normally exuberant Chief was despondent when it seems Carmen is killed in a plane crash and remained so until Carmen reveals herself to be still alive and well towards the end. In another episode, "Just Like Old Times," Carmen's feelings towards this is shown, as Carmen hijacks the Chief's program just for the sake of playing a game of chess, and when it seemed her actions could cause the Chief to be deleted and destroyed forever, she goes into a state of panic and regret.
Later Computer gamesThe newest incarnation of the Chief was introduced in Treasures of Knowledge. Played by Marcie Henderson, this incarnation looks very similar to Lynne Thigpen.
Henderson voiced the Chief in Treasures of Knowledge and its sequel, Secret of the Stolen Drums. This version was unique in that the Chief was played as a much more stern and obsessive character; she hardly ever smiled, and showed nearly constant authority, as well as having a bit of a temper. She could be nice when the situation called for it, seemingly seeing Cole Gannon almost like a surrogate son. But most of the time, she was depicted as much more matter-of-fact and business-oriented character. Despite this, her temper showed when she wasn't taken seriously, and Gannon and Carmen herself were particularly flippant towards her, often cutting her off in some way mid-sentence, which only served to get the Chief riled up.
Wii gamesAs in Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego, the Chief was changed from a woman to a man, and his face was always obscured behind the shadow created by his hat. He appears in each of the five games, and both helps the agents and assigns them cases. His first appearance in a Wii Game is always when the agent enters his office and receives from him a case to solve.
The Chief in the new Netflix series, and the depiction of ACME itself, is a little different than usual. In the new series, at least in the first season, the Chief has not appeared personally; she always appears to her Agents via a hologram, possibly in reference to the fact the AI Chief from "Earth" often appeared as a hologram, despite her resemblance to Thigpen's Chief. It was not until the second-season finale, "The Deep Dive Caper", that the Chief physically appears and her real name is revealed to be Tamara Fraser.
The new, mysterious, yet witty Chief seems to be a grand foil to Carmen Sandiego herself in the show: a born leader who is dedicated to bringing V.I.L.E. down, but the Chief, herself much more secretive and serious than previous incarnations, does this directly through ACME—in this version depicted as a secret organization akin to the Men in Black than a typical detective agency. The Chief is authoritative and often downright obsessive in her pursuit of Carmen and the leaders of V.I.L.E., but she's not afraid to crack a smile, make a joke, or throw out a witty or sarcastic remark here and there.