‘The Chi’ shifts in season 3 as a key actor leaves and community issues flare up
Star Jacob Latimore says the firing of Jason Mitchell has opened up the Chicago-based series to show “so much more range from everybody.”
Fans of “The Chi,” the Chicago-based Showtime series scheduled to make its season debut Sunday, have a lot of questions regarding the fallout from incidents that took place in front of and behind the camera:
• How does the show plan to move on without Brandon, the key character played by actor Jason Mitchell, who was booted from the cast after misconduct allegations surfaced?
• Will other cast members step up in the absence of Brandon and his significant other Jerrika, played by actress Tiffany Boone, who left the show amid the allegations toward Mitchell?
• What’s going to happen with Michael Epps’ young character Jake after his older brother and de-facto parent Reg, Barton Fitzpatrick’s character, was the victim of a drive-by?
• How’s Kevin, played by Alex Hibbert, adjusting to his new North Side school?
• What about Emmett, played by Jacob Latimore? How’s he dealing with the mothers of his children, walking in on his parents making out, and keeping his entrepreneurial spirit afloat without Brandon, his business partner?
• And, perhaps more important, will the show address police shootings, the subject of much current unrest?
Latimore, a Milwaukee native, says the comings and goings won’t hurt the show because he views the cast as an ensemble, not reliant on one or two characters who everyone else feeds off.
‘THE CHI’ IN CONCERT
Rapper Common, an executive producer of “The Chi,” will headline a virtual concert Sunday night leading into the show’s season premiere.
“The Chi With Love,” airing at 6 p.m. on the show’s YouTube page, aims to raise awareness and money for the Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment and challenge racial and economic injustice.
“The Chi” creator Lena Waithe will appear, along with star Jacob Latimore and Chicago musicians Twista, Ravyn Lenae, Jamila Woods, BJ The Chicago Kid and MFnMelo. All will be performing from home to assure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are so many different stories you could watch at one time and everybody had equal screen time. Because there is no replacing Jason Mitchell; he is a phenomenal actor,” said Latimore. “I just feel like we as a cast, we have so many more colors to show. And I just think this time around the whole entire cast — you see so much more range from everybody that we didn’t get to see the first two seasons because our characters are still developing.
“And that’s the beauty of a series where you cannot keep going back to [an unchanged] character every season every year. You know, four months out [of] a year and dive in deeper into the development of the character.”
Lena Waithe, the show’s creator, joins the cast in season three as a progressive lesbian who’s gearing up for a mayoral run (sounds familiar).
One of the season’s main storylines revolves around a missing teenage girl. The community pulls together amid the shock.
After all, many folks in the Black community are of the belief that missing Black girls aren’t a priority of the police. During the search for the missing girl, several people voice their distrust of cops.
Last year, then-Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announced that the police department would partner with the FBI on a Serial Killer Task Force to solve the murders of 51 women on the South and West sides.
“The show has been always based on real stories and just inspired by real stories; ‘The Chi’ is creating an art form from the streets,” said Latimore. “Something relatable representing a voice that hasn’t been able to speak.”
Amid the outrage over the recent police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, critics have called for police budgets to be defunded— a practice where resources are shifted to intentionally divested communities.
On “The Chi,” two police characters prominent in the first two seasons are absent from season three: Armando Cruz (Armando Riesco) and Alice Toussaint (Crystal Dickinson). Their storylines aren’t mentioned; the police are only mentioned in name.
“I think it was really strategic on Lena’s [Waithe] part,” said Latimore. “To be honest, when we were filming last year I don’t think the message was as heavy as it is now. … But you know when you look back and you see all the protests going on you get educated on so many different police brutality events that went on over the past few years.”
Latimore’s character has a lot going on for himself, including being a single dad with multiple children and checking in with some of the younger cast members on the show.
“[Emmett] has a weakness for women, like most young men,” said Latimore. “He’s trying to make ends meet not only for himself but for his children, so I think what’s really important about him is that you really see that he’s trying to build a legacy more so than just making a few dollars to buy some sneakers.”
And what should fans expect from “The Chi” during season three?
“We’ll see this Sunday; the show is as only as good as how the people receive it,” said Latimore. “It’s just going to be powerful and sad to watch, especially to real fans who are real supporters of everybody and the characters; you know it’s gonna feel like we really lost somebody for real.”
Before its premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday on Showtime, the season three opener of “The Chi” will be available for free viewing starting Friday on streaming platforms, on demand, on YouTube and at SHO.com.