Yolonda Ross wanted her character Jada Washington of Showtimes’ The Chi to be authentic, especially to women diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a reason why she famously shaved her head during a highly emotional scene last year. For the Season 5 premiere, Ross talks with BSM Magazine about what fans can expect in the upcoming episodes of the popular Chicago-based drama series.
I think people are going to be really excited about it in a different way than last season
Season 5 of “The Chi” is all about Black Love. What inspired the theme?
It’s always great to experience joy amongst us. I feel like coming off last season—this season is complex but lighter in tone. It gives viewers a chance to breathe a little and see us (the characters) in a happier space. To see black people in another light that is not negative. I think that is a good thing.
Your character Jada was diagnosed with breast cancer last season, and you famously shaved your hair on camera. Describe that moment for how you prepared yourself for the storyline?
I did seek out different organizations in Chicago because I wanted to talk with women and get an intimate understanding of what they go through and how they feel. I’ve lost friends and family members to cancer, but I think, like a lot of people, you’re not right there with them, and sometimes you can be there with them and not ask the questions because you don’t want to upset them or make them feel a certain way. In this case, I was able to be very open with the organizations that were full of information. They were watching the show like everybody else, and they wanted themselves to be seen, and my job as an actress was to make sure these women going through cancer were seen and that I was showcasing them in a very real and truthful way so that’s why I shaved my hair on the show.
You became involved with Chicago’s WOC breast cancer survivor community. Why was it important that you showed your support off-camera as well?
Things are not seen evenly outside of the show. I mean, the health care disparities are real. I hear so many stories. There should never be a situation where you have a government job, have kids, are a single parent, and are now diagnosed with cancer. You lose your job because it’s taking too long to get the disability, you’re still fighting your illness, and you become homeless for a bit. That should never happen. Never. Or it takes three doctor’s visits with three different doctors where somebody finally gives you an MRI to see what is going on with your body when you know something’s wrong. You’re telling the doctors, “something’s not right,” but they just send you home with some aspirin. Or even the thought of thinking because you are a woman of color, you’re coming there to get drugs. Really! It’s very disheartening, and it made me mad. We should not have to go through that. It’s hard fighting a (medical condition) period, but if I can help in any way, I will. It was so amazing that a viewer stepped up and reached out. She was also a cancer survivor, and she (Rhonda Feinberg from the Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation and her family) donated $100,000 to the organizations where I give my time.
What journey will Jada explore in the new season that you can mention?
To go with the “Black Love” theme we talked about, Jada got past one hurdle that is always a fear for anyone, cancer. So for her, this season—it’s about finding love, and I think Jada is trying to figure out what to do with her love. She wants to live every day to the fullest. That is where she is at right now.
In the first words that come to mind, why should viewers tune in to the new season of The Chi?
Black joy! It makes me smile when I think of the highlights and moments this season. I think people are going to be really excited about it in a different way than last season. People are going to be very happy and chattery about Season 5 online. It’s a fun season.
Season 5 premiere of The Chi is available on-demand to Showtime subscribers on Friday, June 24. The episode will first air on television via Showtime on Sunday, June 26, at 9 pm ET/PT.
Fun Celebrity Fact: Yolonda Ross is also a writer and director.
Photo Courtesy of True Public Relations