The first season of "The Chi," the South Side Chicago-focused ensemble drama that Lena Waithe ("Master of None") created for Showtime, wrapped with its 10th episode last night (March 18). Waithe reflected on the season and new opportunities for the second season in an interview with her hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, yesterday.
Waithe told the Tribune that she and her colleagues paid close attention to fan feedback for the first season, which follows the lives of several residents of color in the predominantly Black and Brown South Side neighborhood. She added that she earned more producing clout after production began on the first season, thanks in large part to winning an Emmy for "Master of None." She plans to bring that power into the second season.
"The first season of a show is always tricky," she explained. "Even though people think I’m all-mighty and powerful because I’m the creator, you sometimes lose control because [the studio executives] think of me as a young’un and they’re like, ‘No, we’re going to do things this way.’ So the great thing is that the studio and the network have kind of seen, like, ‘Oh, okay—Lena knows what she’s talking about, we’re going to trust her.’"
To that end, Waithe said that the second season, which Showtime confirmed in January, will be "Blacker."
"Before [we started season one], I think there was an element of, ‘Oh, we don’t have to focus on the Blackness of the city,’" Waithe recounted. "And I’m like, ‘No, that’s what the show is!’ And we really want to be immersed in the city and to show some actual places. I’m really grateful that the studio and network are really more in bed with my vision for season two."
She also affirmed that she and new showrunner Ayanna Floyd Davis ("Falling Skies"), who is also a Black woman, will focus more of season two on the Black women characters in the series.
"I wanted to explore the Black male psyche in season one," she said. "But I always wanted the women to have equal real estate, and I feel like that didn’t happen and it was a missed opportunity."
"So now, going into season two, our priority, honestly, is these women—and introducing new ones, as well," she continued. "Making them three-dimensional, well-rounded characters. Because I still believe that women are the backbone of the African-American community and we always have been. So I think it would be remiss not to explore that in an accurate way. I think it’s really unfortunate that that was not the case in season one. That’s one of the issues that Ayanna and I can’t wait to fix."