“Raising a black boy around here, sometimes, you have no idea.”
That line from the powerful season 2 trailer for Showtime’s The Chi hits the exact message that new showrunner Ayanna Floyd Davis (Empire, Hannibal) wanted to put a spotlight on upon joining the series. “I wanted to go deeper in the characters and ground and explore and humanize this journey for black men in Chicago and make people see them the way I see them,” she tells EW. “I felt like the best version of the show was exploring the four stages of black manhood.”
This echoes what creator Lena Waithe told EW ahead of series premiere last year. “I never thought I’d write about the city, but I just got to a place in my life where I think it was so misunderstood,” said the Chicago native. “It’s a different side of my voice, about being black and human and trying to survive and have a dream. It’s raw. It’s real. I’m not sugar-coating. It’s not, ‘Let’s show black people in Chicago in a positive light.’ It’s, ‘I want to show people in a human light.’”
And The Chi will do just that by continuing to follow South Siders Kevin (Alex Hibbert), Emmett (Jacob Latimore), Brandon (Jason Mitchell), Ronnie (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), who are all at different points of their life, whether it be dealing with school, parenthood, entrepreneurship, or prison. But, Floyd also felt the need to up the presence of the female characters, giving them their own focus. “I don’t think you can tell a man’s story, particularly a black man’s story, without a black woman’s story,” she says.
Floyd understands that all of that sounds very heavy, but rest assured that there’s some light amid the tough times. “We go deeper, keep the grit of season 1, but I think this year is more heartfelt and funnier,” she says. “We do have some fun.”
Speaking of season 1, Floyd has no qualms in making a bold declaration. “Season 2 is going to be better,” she promises. “It’s a really complete season; it’s emotional, it’s fun, and it’s more Chicago. It really feels like the South Side.”
The Chi returns Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.