The Chi, Showtime's drama premiering in January from Emmy-winner Lena Waithe (Master of None) and executive producer Common, follows a group of people in the Windy City whose lives are linked by love, loss and a series of unfortunate events. After a homicide — all too common in the city, where as of Dec. 14, 643 people were killed in 2017 according to the Chicago Tribune — the fallout unites a group of people including elementary school kid Kevin (Moonlight star Alex Hibbert) who has to grow up way too fast, and working mom Jada (Yolanda Ross).
Sadness aside, there's lots of hope and humor in the the first four episodes that have been made available to critics, as the adults and young adults try their best to navigate through a world rife with literal death traps at every turn.
In advance of the premiere, Waithe and Common shared their thoughts on scenes from the first episode, and how they shape the understanding of the characters and drama to come.
In the first, Kevin tries to skip out on going into a rehearsal for The Wiz — a play he signed up for only to win the affections of a girl. His teacher isn't having it. "The teacher tells him that he should be a man of his word," Waithe says in the clip, "and he shouldn't just back out of it." The scene, she says, illuminates how father figures for Kevin, and boys like him, do exist in the community. "I love that moment. Kevin learns something about himself."
In another, below, health care aide Jada comes home early — which comes as a surprise to her son Emmett (Jacob Latimore) as well as the young woman there with him who was definitely not there to study for a math test. Jada, whose life will become much more complicated as the season progresses, is, for now, a fun study in unpredictability and discipline, relating to her man-child with both tough love and a sisterly bond. So when she finds Emmett's company she reacts in a way that's surprising, to say the least. "She's being a mother and trying to set that responsibility and say, 'Look man, this ain't what you're supposed to be doing in my house.'" Waithe calls it one of her favorites; it's not hard to see why.
The Chi begins on Showtime Jan. 7 at 10/9c.