Matt Dinerstein // Showtime
Throughout the past 25 years, there have been a number of TV shows that give an in-depth look at life in the inner-city and how the environment can affect its inhabitants on various levels, including The Corner, South Central, The Wire and others. The latest show to put a microscope on the good, bad and ugly in the urban community is The Chi, a Showtime original series which takes place on the south side of Chicago, one of the most notorious and crime-ridden areas in America.
Created by Lena Waithe, The Chi follows the lives of various characters from different vantage points in life and how their paths intertwine, resulting in a complex look at how the mean streets of Chicago impact everyone from children to the elderly, for better or worse. Making its premiere on January 7, 2018, The Chi would quickly gain an audience in the hip-hop community, which has praised the show for providing an authentic portrait of the culture and vibe of urban America, and finds a bit of themselves embedded in many of the show's characters.
With the first season of The Chi concluding this past Sunday and news surfacing that Showtime has decided to renew the series, REVOLT TV highlighted 15 of the show's most memorable characters that left a lasting impression. [SPOILERS IN SOME OF THE VIDEOS BELOW]
15. Detective Bill Wallace
One of the more despicable characters introduced during the first season of The Chi, Detective Bill Wallace plays both sides of the fence, working with Trice to control the illegal firearms racket on the South Side of Chicago and using his connections to keep him and his co-conspirators out of hot water. As crooked as they come, Detective Wallace will go to great lengths to cover his tracks, but his transgressions ultimately come back to haunt him, a reminder that all things done in the darkness shall eventually come to light.
A reputed gang leader that controls the South Side of Chicago with an iron fist, Trice keeps it relatively low-key throughout the first season of The Chi, shrouding himself in secrecy while handing out orders to his underlings to do the fair share of his dirty work. However, Trice has no qualms about getting his own hands dirty and makes it known that he's not one to be trifled with, as a few of his own comrades and foes find out first-hand just how vicious his wrath can be.
13. Laverne Johnson
Laverne Johnson, an emotionally distressed mother of two battling alcoholism, is one of the more abrasive and blunt characters on The Chi. She speaks out of turn, and displays a disregard for the feelings of others, including her own children, particularly in the wake of tragedy. Often finding herself in conflict with her son, Brandon, who disapproves of her new relationship, Laverne may be stubborn and combative but is shown to be equally compassionate and caring in her own right by the season's end.
12. Jada Washington
Jada Washington is one of the more endearing characters on The Chi. As a registered nurse and home health aid, she juggles the responsibilities of being the bread-winner in a single-parent household and ushering her son, Emmett Washington, into adulthood. Her compassion for the black men in her community is evident throughout and puts her livelihood in jeopardy, but also opens the door for a big decision that will have a lasting impact on her family.
The owner of Sonny's Chicken Pit, Sonny is one of the more respected figures on the South Side of Chicago, with his establishment serving as a local staple where everyone in the community feels at home. The elder brother of Quentin Dickinson, Sonny attempts to persuade his employee, Emmett Washington, from becoming involved with Quentin's criminal activities, warning him of the possible dangers, some of which will impact Sonny himself as The Chi's first season progresses.
10. Detective Cruz
In a city full of violence and corruption, Detective Cruz stands as a beacon of light in the darkness, attempting to bring justice to the South Side of Chicago. While other members of law enforcement take a paint-by-numbers approach and a lassiez-fare attitude towards crime, Detective Cruz is hands-on and dedicated to turning over every rock in the pursuit of the truth and treating those within the community with the respect they deserve.
As the younger brother of Reg, a hardened lieutenant and street solider in gang leader Trice's organization, and the lack of a parental figure in his home, Jake is tasked with choosing between continuing his education and following in his brother's footsteps to live a life of crime. Although Jake's friends, Kevin and Papa, both attempt to persuade him from conforming to his environment, the lifestyle of a hustler appears to intrigue Jake,
Unemployed and living life on the fringes, South Side native Ronnie is blindsided by the news that his stepson Jason, a local high school basketball star, has been murdered in cold blood, resulting in him taking it upon himself to find his son's killer. However, Ronnie's actions during his quest for vengeance would prove costly to him, as well as those around him and spur a spiritual awakening inside of him that would alter the course of his life.
A capo in Trice's criminal organization, Reg's responsibilities include keeping the troops in order and a stronghold on the illegal firearms market in the South Side of Chicago. Equally charismatic and charming as he is ruthless and sinister, Reg insists that his younger brother Jake become a member of his crew, but quickly discovers that his own position may be in jeopardy, resulting in him making a power play that will create a shift in the South Side criminal hierarchy.
The grandmother of Ronnie, Ethel is an elderly woman dealing with serious health problems that refuses to come to terms with her condition and leave her South Side Chicago home. Despite being as stubborn and combative as they come, Ethel displays an underlying compassion when it comes to her grandson and her caretaker Jada Washington, and her sharp-tongue and no-nonsense attitude makes her a character from The Chi's first season that many viewers have quickly fallen in love with.
A classmate and friend of Kevin Williams and Jake, Papa is a jack of all trades, wise beyond his years and proves himself invaluable to his crew, whether it's providing snacks for a party or getting the trio out of a jam. In terms of sheer charisma, Papa was undoubtedly the breakout star from the first season of The Chi and can be credited with some of the show's more hilarious moments thus far.
One of The Chi's most endearing characters is twelve year-old junior high student Kevin Williams, who finds himself in the middle of a homicide investigation after witnessing the murder of a South Side teenager. Kevin's growing pains are documented throughout the show's first season, including his pursuit of classmate Andrea and his struggle to retain his innocence while coming of age in Chicago's treacherous streets.
3. Emmett Washington
A charming teenager from the South Side of Chicago with a sneaker-obsession and an affinity for the ladies, Emmett Washington is forced to face responsibility when he discovers he could possibly be the father of a two-year-old son named Emmett. While Emmett initially views the situation as a burden, he gradually comes around to the idea of being a father and does everything in his power to help provide for and protect his son, even if it means putting his own freedom and life on the line.
An aspiring chef with aspirations of becoming a line-cook at an upscale restaurant, Brandon's life appears to be on the upswing, as he prepares to take the next step with his girlfriend, Jerrika, while serving as a role-model to his half-brother Coogie and coping with his mother's alcoholism. But one fateful phone call turns Brandon's world into a nightmare and cause him to put everything he worked for on the line in as part of his quest for retribution, a choice that could have lasting consequences, both personally and professionally.
1. Quentin Dickinson
A legendary figure in the Chi-Town streets, Quentin "Q" Dickinson has returned from Cuba to restore order to the South Side of Chicago and get to the bottom of an unsolved murder that has left the community stricken with grief. Fearless and cunning, "Q" may appear to be a charitable gentleman with a soft heart on the surface, but underneath lies a murderous crime boss with intentions of reclaiming what's his and no qualms about going against the grain to get the job done.