‘The Chi’ is a drama series that revolves around a group of young people from a neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago and showcases how murders and other criminal activities in the area impact their lives and the local community. It is created by Lena Waithe (‘Master of None‘) and stars Jacob Latimore, Alex R. Hibbert, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, and Yolonda Ross in the lead roles.
The series gives the viewers a gritty and realistic look at life in the South Side of Chicago and challenges the city’s portrayal in media. As a result, some of the conflicts, characters, and other elements feel ripped out of newspaper headlines. Does that mean ‘The Chi’ is actually based on any real events or true stories? We did some research into the matter, and here’s what we uncovered.
Is The Chi Based on a True Story?
No, ‘The Chi’ is not based on a true story, but certain elements of the show are inspired by true events. The series tells a fictional narrative mostly inspired by creator Lena Waithe’s experiences while growing up in a neighborhood of South Side. Waithe’s primary inspiration behind the series was the South Side’s diversity which often isn’t spoken about much and is shadowed by the area’s high crime rate. However, the series does not shy away from examining the effects of criminal activities on the lives of regular people.
In an interview with Variety, Waithe revealed that she wanted to bring forward a side of Chicago that isn’t covered by the media. She felt frustrated by how various journalists portrayed her hometown through their work. The Emmy Award-winning writer-actor explained that she hoped to start a conversation and help the audience develop an understanding of the human side to the lives directly and indirectly affected by the crimes in the city, which often make the local headlines.
Waithe said, “I think the more the media dehumanizes us, the more people will be desensitized to our deaths; the more people see us as human beings, the more they will value our lives.” She drew inspiration from her personal experiences of growing up in the South Side and based characters on the people she knew and grew up with. She has revealed that the character of Brandon, who is torn between his ambitions and responsibilities, is partially based on herself.
Waithe also incorporated shades of her personality in Kevin, a streetwise kid who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and sees things he wasn’t supposed to. Ronnie is loosely inspired by Waithe’s uncle, and Jada, Emmett’s though-loving mother, is inspired by her own mom while being named after actress Jada Pinkett Smith.
The show also captures various facets of Chicago, including its diversity. The city has a predominantly black population, and certain neighborhoods are stricken with poverty. ‘The Chi’ explores how this population looks at life and interacts with the world around them. The city’s culinary scene is renowned and is explored through Brandon’s character. The series also tackles themes such as emerging adulthood, family, communal harmony, politics, and corruption that are globally resonant.
‘The Chi’ portrays the South Side of Chicago in many shades instead of the monochromic violence generally associated with the region. It also strongly voices the issues faced by the black people due to a social, cultural, and economic divide in the city. The authenticity with which it tackles regular people’s lives and explores their vulnerabilities and human side gives the story a sense of realism. Ultimately, we can reiterate that although ‘The Chi’ is a fictional story, it does utilize the creator’s personal experiences to further amplify the narrative’s realism and make it a compelling slice of life story.
Read More: Where is The Chi Filmed?