In creating The Chi, Showtime's drama about life on the Southside of Chicago, creator and executive producer Lena Waithe had a very specific, and utilitarian goal: to show black people as human beings. This may sound a too-obvious or even mundane undertaking (How else could they be seen?) but in a time when even the president of the United States openly derides mostly-black nations as "sh--holes," shows like The Chi are even more necessary than ever.
The Chi forges a kinship with viewers and characters with an abundance of fascinating fantasy folks with traits and quirks not often seen on TV. As the story expands, The Chi introduces viewers to a nabe full of rich, occasionally flamboyant spirits. Some characters are borrowed directly from Waithe's experiences. Some are total fiction. All of them feel fresh. "We are on this roller coaster, topsy turvy ride of their lives," Waithe told TV Guide.
In doing so, The Chi peers into a place brimming with diversity -- one that unearths insights about the folks of this community and many more like it. They cope with their fair share of grief but as its characters reveal, there's so much more going on. "The thing about black people is that we are masters at finding joy in the midst of pain and sorrow because we've seen our fair share of it in this country," she said at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "We know how to find a smile in the midst of sadness. I would never want to paint a picture of us that is all dark because there's so much light in our community." Here are nine The Chi characters who are part of the portrait, with Waithe and the actors who play them talking about their stories.
The Chi airs Sundays at 10/9c on Showtime.