Back in September, Lena Waithe won an Emmy for Best Comedy Writing for the "Thanksgiving" episode from season two of Master of None, becoming the first black woman to do so. While the more cynical among us could read this as another in the night's numerous acts of diversity that were ultimately just for show, in truth it further justifies Showtime's wise decision to pick up Waithe's forthcoming series The Chi (which is a coming-of-age series set on the south side of Chicago) back in January.
Waithe's "Thanksgiving" tale not only found a way to cast Angela Bassett, but, over the course of multiple Thanksgiving dinners at Waithe's character's family home, told the story of a woman coming out to her family, with the myriad of issues that can come up with something as personal and fraught as that. It was hilarious when it needed to be funny, heart-warming when it needed to be emotional, and was easily one of the best episodes of 2017. Based on those 34 minutes of television alone, The Chi needs to be on the top of your must-watch list.
Deadline reports that a pilot shot for The Chi was shot last year but didn't make it to series. After that, the idea was redeveloped and new writers were brought in. However, that time spent incubating appears to have been a blessing in disguise, based on the squad they've assembled both in front of and behind the camera. Doubting us? Take a look at what The Chi has going on.
There are some powerhouses working behind-the-scenes
First off, you can't go wrong with an Emmy winner (Waithe), the director of Brown Sugar and Dope (Rick Famuyiwa), and Common, who appears to be working behind the scenes as well as being on camera in some capacity. It's a combination of knowing the voice, understanding vision, and being in tune with the (Chi) city that, at least on paper, sounds like a successful trifecta.
Young, black Hollywood is well-represented on-screen
We promise you, we couldn't hide our excitement while watching this trailer. Kicks star Jahking Guillory back on a bike, curly hair flowing? Jason Mitchell (Eazy E in Straight Outta Compton), who is said to have been a part of the redevelopment, being featured throughout? Alex Hibbert, who stole all of our hearts as "Little" in the 2016 Oscar-winning Moonlight? It even has Jacob Lattimore in it, aka the best part of the otherwise underwhelming Sleight.
Not really featured in the trailer is Sonja Sohn, who Wire fans should remember as playing Detective "Kima" Greggs for the series' duration (though let's not forget her earlier incarnation as a slam poet). Waithe is even listed as a cast member as well!
The subject matter is unique
The Chi is described as "a powerful coming-of-age drama series about an interconnected group of working-class African-Americans on Chicago's volatile south side, who remind us that no matter what, the human spirit is strong and hope never dies." That might not feel new, but think about how we normally cover Chicago. It's either "(insert number of) black people died in (insert period of time) in Chicago this weekend," or artists like Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa speaking on why the city is the way it is. Do we get to hear the human tales or see the people behind these statistics? Hardly. That's where Waithe (who is a 33-year-old Chicago native) comes in, hopefully breathing life into the bodies that many just see as a pile of black skin stacking one atop the other in a never-ending war.
We still have time to see (and hear) more about The Chi; the series debuts on January 7, 2018. However, based on the many magnificent parts going into this equation, we have a feeling that the sum is going to be dynamic. Hopefully we're correct.