With Chicago's South Side frequently in the news -- often for tragic reasons -- a drama series premiering Sunday, Jan. 7, on Showtime shows the good and the bad in the embattled part of the city.
Filmed in Chicago. "The Chi" captures the experience of living in one of the nation's most crime-ridden areas through the lives of several loosely linked residents. Brandon (Jason Mitchell) works as a line cook at an expensive restaurant and dreams of one day opening his own eatery with girlfriend Jerrika (Tiffany Boone), with whom he has a young son. Emmett (Jacob Latimore) is a teen whose carefree existence is shattered by an unexpected adult responsibility, about which his mother Jada (Yolonda Ross) is not amused. And Ronnie (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) is a drifter with a tendency toward poor decisions.
Watching over the neighborhood is Detective Rick Cruz (Armando Riesco), a homicide cop who doesn't go by the book and tries not to jump to conclusions about its residents.
To prepare for the role, the New York-based actor spent time with several Windy City homicide detectives and even did ride-alongs.
"It seems to me like everyone I spoke to loves their job," Riesco says, "despite obviously the immense difficulties of being a homicide detective, particularly in the South Side of Chicago right now, where there's a sort of ongoing mistrust between the community and the police department, and understandably so. This guy is good at what he does, he likes what he's doing. ... He's an independent thinker and he's a little off-center."
In the opening episode, a case of mistaken identity results in tragedy when one resident decides to take the law into his own hands. Distrust runs high between the police and the community. Many residents are struggling to survive. A few, like Brandon, aspire to improve their lives through grit and hard work. But often, circumstances can pull well-meaning people back into the cycle of violence and poverty.
"When I first came to Chicago," says actor Mitchell, who plays Brandon, "I saw a sign that said 46 people were shot that weekend. And in my mind, I'm thinking 46 families were affected."
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Premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7, on Showtime