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Lena Waithe Says ‘The Chi’ Shows a Side of Chicago ‘They Haven’t Seen Before’

Chicago native Lena Waithe, who won an Emmy for her work on “Master of None,” is turning her work to her hometown in Showtime series “The Chi.” The show, which follows interwoven stories of people who live in the South Side of Chicago, features many cast members originally from the Windy City, specifically African-Americans. 

“It’s important for me to tell stories about black folks,” Waithe said at the Wednesday premiere in Los Angeles. “I know how we talk, how we praise, how we love, and for me it was important to show us ourselves and people who don’t know us a side they haven’t seen before.”

Showtime CEO David Nevins added that the Waithe’s portrayal of a community she knew so well would be universal.

“‘Shameless’ is another great Chicago show,” Nevins added. “The fact that it has communities that are usually portrayed in a certain way and she had a different angle on it in that there is sadness and tragedy, but you like all these characters and there is a core optimism was really appealing to me.”

Jason Mitchell, who plays Brandon, said that he was also proud to be part of a series that calls attention to the city’s black population.

“Chicago is a very segregated city and I believe that one half can’t speak for the other half, and that’s something that isn’t spoken about too much,” Mitchell said. “The story just needs to be told by the right people.”

Also serving as executive producer on the show is rapper/actor and fellow Chicago native Common, who spoke about the vibrant soundtrack of the show. “The music really became a character because Chicago has a lot of incredible musicians like Chance the Rapper and Kanye West,” he said. “As much as the city is a character and how we have the characters written, the music is [also] part of the journey of the show and getting a feel of what Chicago is.”

The Chi” premieres on Showtime on Jan. 7 at 10 p.m.

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