Showing authentic black lives makes ‘The Chi’ revolutionary, say its creators

Lena Waithe and Common at the SHOWTIME premiere of THE CHI in downtown Los Angeles on 1/3/18. - Photo Credit: Eric Charbonneau/SHOWTIME. - Photo ID: TheChiPremiere_EC1_1461.JPG

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When the actor and rapper Common first read the script for “The Chi” – the new Showtime series about black life in Chicago’s South Side – he knew it was something special.

“I thought, ‘This is dope writing and I want to be a part of this,’” said the Oscar-winning songwriter and a producer on the series. “When I started in the music business, I never thought I would be a producer on a show that is telling our stories in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to,”

“The Chi” was created by Lena Waithe, who is, like Common, a Chicago native. Last year, she became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing for an episode of “Master of None.”

The series, which has received positive reviews, began airing last Sunday and had solid viewership despite premiering against the Golden Globes. While the South Side of Chicago has a reputation for violence, Waithe wanted to show a more multifaceted side of the black population there.

“I would never want to paint a picture of us that is all dark, because there’s so much light in our community,” said the writer.

Indeed, “The Chi” navigates a tricky path between the two. A murder spurs the action, but the series is not a crime story. It begins with a teen, Coogie (Jahking Guillory), riding through the streets and interacting with the folks in the neighborhood. It’s not the prettiest of areas, but it’s not menacing.

We are soon introduced to a trio of young teens who are trying to navigate adolescence, school and understanding girls.

“Being black in America is a very complex state,” says Waithe. “I think there’s a lot of joy and pain in all these things, and that’s what we wanted to get across in the show.”

Waithe moved out to Los Angeles in 2006 after college and eventually worked as a personal assistant for director Ava DuVernay on the 2010 film, “I Will Follow.” After that, Waithe began writing her own scripts.

Lena Waithe and Common at the premiere Showtime’s “The Chi” in downtown Los Angeles Jan.3. (Eric Charbonneau/Showtime)

She wrote the pilot for “The Chi” in 2014, so the series has been a long time coming. The project drew interest from a

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment

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