With ‘The Chi,’ Lena Waithe Heads Home in Search of the Real ChicagoSmarzlik
CHICAGO — As Lena Waithe stood in front of her childhood home here on the city’s South Side last October, images very different than the ones depicted on the news these days began coming to her. Instead of gang wars and unremitting violence, Ms. Waithe, the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for comedy series writing, saw in her mind’s eye scenes of children joyously running in the streets and parents gathering at a neighbor’s house for a game of cards.
With “The Chi,” a new Showtime drama that debuts on Jan. 7, Ms. Waithe aims to paint her city in all its complexities and nuances. She is the creator of this kaleidoscopic series that follows the interweaving stories of several young men, most notably Jason Mitchell (“Mudbound,” “Straight Outta Compton”) as an aspiring chef and Alex R. Hibbert (“Moonlight”) as a wide-eyed preteen. “The Chi” doesn’t ignore the brutality of day-to-day life, but rather focuses on the humanity it can devastate.
“My mission is to show these young black men are not born with a gun in their hand,” Ms. Waithe said over brunch earlier that day at a downtown diner. “These are kids who come out with all the promise and hope that any other kid does.”
Michael Epps, Alex Hibbert and Shamon Brown are among the stars of “The Chi,”which follows the interweaving stories of several young men in Chicago.Credit…Parrish Lewis/SHOWTIME