“She Felt Familiar To Me” Tiffany Boone Shares How ‘The Chi’ Brought Her Out Of Her Acting Hiatus

February 18, 2018  |  

tiffany boone left acting hiatus for the chi


If you’re a fan of Showtime’s latest hit The Chi, you understand that “Brandon” without “Jerrika” is quite a painful site to see. We’ve been witnessing Brandon, played by Jason Mitchell, straddle the line between street life avenging the life of his little brother and chasing his culinary dreams while keeping a watchful eye on his mother who is battling her own demons. Jerrika Little, played by Tiffany Boone, seems like the light at the end of very dark path and a partner who is willing to meet her man half way so they can escape the ills of the city of Chicago that seem to prey on its well-intentioned residents. Aramide A Tinubu of Shadow and Act recently sat down with Boone to talk about how The Chi is painting the real picture of Chicago for viewers who may have only known the city for it’s high murder rates and hometown of Kanye West. Boone also shares how the character of “Jerrika” drew her out of an acting hiatus.

Boone says that the script pretty much spoke for itself and that after reading it, she knew she had to be part of the project that came from the mind of genius storyteller, Lena Waithe:

“I read it, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I have to be in this. How do we get me in this? Do it now.”

“I auditioned, and I didn’t get it, and then they cast it, shot it, and then completely recast it. Here we are three years later.”

Boone says the main thing that drew her to “Jerrika” was the fact that the she had a lot in common with the character, something that wasn’t true for previous roles she had taken:

“She felt familiar to me.”

“I normally play characters that are very different from me. I’ve played quite a few murderers and a lot of crazy people. It was the first time I had read something that felt, really super close to me. (Jerrika) is a young Black woman trying to get her career together and trying to build this strong relationship with this man she’s in love with. She’s strong, funny, independent and complicated —it felt like me, it felt like my friends, it felt like my family, it felt like I knew her. That’s what made me want to play her.”

Boone, a graduate of the California Institute of Arts, revealed that she almost walked away from the industry altogether before The Chi, her first audition after the hiatus, came along:

“I was just drained.”

“A large part of being an actor is rejection. Sometimes you can only take so much. So that’s one part of it. The other part of it was I didn’t feel like there were stories being told at that moment, that were super interesting to me — that spoke to me and spoke to our community. Luckily since then, it has been such a change. So many amazing shows have come out representing all of the complexities of Black life. There’s Atlanta; there’s Dear White People, there’s Insecure, and even This Is Us. There’s Black-ish and now Grown-ish. There’s just so many stories now, and at that time, that just wasn’t happening. I just wasn’t feeling creatively juiced up. I was becoming bitter, and I just wasn’t loving it anymore. I thought, ‘Okay, take a break.’”

She also talks about how appreciative she was that Waithe gave her and her natural hair a shot on the big screen, a place that isn’t exactly the most “Marley Twist” friendly:

“I haven’t had a perm since 2007, and I haven’t straightened my hair since 2015,” she explained. “I was going to auditions with my hair, the way you see it in the show for the last few years. When I auditioned for Jerrika, I actually had big gray Marley twists in my hair. There’s not enough representation of young Black intelligent women, who are also sexy, and confident with their natural hair. That’s no offense to girls who have 3A or 3B hair. There are no girls with 4C hair on TV rocking their little afro, with a pencil skirt on, going to work, and having their man look at them like they’re the most beautiful thing in the world. This is not shown enough. That’s why we thought it was important to have that for Jerrika. I feel like a lot of people have connected to that, so I’m so grateful.”

So what’s in store for season two? Boone says you’re going to see just how closely connected all of the characters really are:

“There are so many directions all of these stories can go in.”

“I think you’re gonna see more of the connections between all of these people.”

You can catch Boone and her fellow cast mates on The Chi airing on Showtime on Sundays at 10:00 ET.

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