Emmy Award winning writer, Lena Waithe joined Common, Jason Mitchell, and Jacob Latimore in a panel at SXSW to discuss her hit Showtime series The Chi, and how the series paints a realistic and accurate portrait of the Black community – a picture that is rarely seen on television.

The Chi is a coming of age drama that follows six interrelated characters living in the South Side of Chicago linked by coincidence, but bonded by the need for connection and redemption.

“I wanted to do something real,” Waithe shared. “It’s a unique way to look at black people. We’re really just being. We’re not tap dancing, we’re not trying to get out of the hood, we’re not rapping or doing other things we traditionally see on TV.”

Regarding a particular scene shown to the audience during the panel, Coogie (Jahking Guillory) is seen running through the alleyways as he is being chased by the police. After the scene, Waithe shared with the audience the meaning behind the scene.

“That moment of Coogie running away…He is almost like a runaway slave. We haven’t stopped running. Even the way he dips into the alley is very much like the underground railroad.  She continues, “this scene really did have a deeper meaning for me. Black people are always out of breath. We can never rest. We go from chains to handcuffs.”

Throughout the panel, Waithe stressed the importance of telling stories that revolve around important issues that have plagued black communities for decades, and the importance of showing the complexities and nuances of everyday black life.

“Who is valuing our lives?” Waithe asked. It’s really important how we survive. Everyone has different survival mechanisms, and everyone breathes differently. Nobody cares when white folks kill us and no one cares when we kill each other. If we don’t hold each other up, who will?” She adds, “If we don’t tell our story, someone else will and they will get it wrong.”

Last year, Waithe became the first black woman to win an outstanding writing for a comedy series Emmy for Netflix’s Master of None, on which she also has a recurring role. Recently she made a guest appearance on the NBC hit series This Is Us, and is making her feature film debut in the Steven Spielberg film Ready Player One.  In addition to all of her projects, Waithe’s single-camera comedy pilot Twenties is currently in development at TBS.

Since debuting on January 7, The Chi has become Showtime’s strongest series since Billions in 2016. The series finale airs this Sunday; however, a second season is already in the works with Ayanna Floyd Davis at the helm as the season 2 showrunner.

Be sure to tune into the finale on Sunday!

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