Jasmine Davis is a beautiful woman — inside and out— and she’s brave which elevates her natural beauty.
Currently, the actress is causing the right people in Hollywood to gawk as she shift-shapes into the skin of Imani, the loyal girlfriend of Trig (Luke James) on the Showtime series “The Chi” which is created and executive produced by Emmy® winner Lena Waithe (Twenties, Boomerang) and executive produced by Academy Award®, Emmy and Golden Globe® winner Common (Selma),
There has been a lot of proverbial ink about this bold series which is best and accurately described as a coming-of-age drama that is centered on a group of residents on Chicago’s South Side who bond, deeply, after connecting by coincidence. The series has not been without controversy having to fire actor Jason Mitchell after allegations of sexual misconduct, in 2019.
Hiccups behind them, season four unveils on Sunday, May 23rd.
Back to Ms. Davis who, by the by, is the show’s first transgender character, a distinction the vivacious actress delights in.
Davis came from the streets of Chicago IL where she was raised by her mom who had four other children. Like many young people living in urban environments, Davis’ dad battled with drug addiction which is why he has been in and out of her life.
Learning her she was early, Davis knew she was different from her other gay family members even before her dad asked her, at the age of 12, if she was planning on having a sex change when she got older. It was a clear wake-up call where she realized, quickly, how she had to become passable to survive the harsh streets of Chicago.
Life moves fast in Chicago. It’s not uncommon to bear witness to crime, and drive-bys. Davis experienced life early watching the daily transactions of local drug dealers and seeing their dead bodies laid out in the streets. These harsh realities helped shape her, giving her a Ph.D. in street life.
Davis, who is dyslexic, always had a passion for the arts and honed her gift in improv, studying at Second City in Chicago where she met other dyslexic people who were succeeding in life working in the arts while following their passions.
“The Chi” season four cast includes Jacob Latimore (Like a Boss), Alex Hibbert (Moonlight), Yolonda Ross (Treme), Shamon Brown Jr., Michael V. Epps, Birgundi Baker, Luke James, and Curtiss Cook. Kandi Burruss and La La Anthony are set to return as guest stars, along with Tabitha Brown (Princess of the Row) and Chicago native Jason Weaver (Smart Guy, ATL).
In addition to Waithe and Common, Aaron Kaplan (A Million Little Things, The Neighborhood), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Derek Dudley and Shelby Stone of Freedom Road Productions, Rishi Rajani, president of Hillman Grad Productions, and showrunner Justin Hillian serve as executive producers for season four. Produced entirely in its namesake city, “The Chi” is produced by 20th Television.
Here is what Jasmine Davis had to share about playing Imani in “The Chi” and learning to stand her truth as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: Jasmine Davis, you dialed me directly? No nervous publicist hovering over the phone. I. Love. It.
JASMINE DAVIS: (laughing) Yes. Just me.
LAS: You grew up in Chicago? Where exactly?
JD: I did. I grew up on the South Side near Kenwood High School.
LAS: Did you embrace representing the trans-community at the beginning of this series?
JD: No. When my team initially brought the role to my attention I wasn’t fully out yet. And I didn’t know if I wanted to come out (as a trans person) because of everything that was going on in the world.
LAS: Understood. I follow what’s happening in the community. Talk with us about perception.
JD: I don’t want to be looked at as a trans actor, the way people talked about Black people back in the day. I’m an actor who happens to play whatever role speaks to me.
LAS: This I understand. Having something speak to you. It feels — to me— this is a great series to be seen in.
JD: Agreed. I’m glad I’m on ‘The Chi’ because it’s a very real story and I was thrilled because so much of Imani is like me in my life.
LAS: I pause. I ponder. You can’t see me but my index finger is tapping my temple. Explain.
JD: (laughing) [Imani] A badass, she’s unapologetic, she’s a goddess. She’s this energetic being who knew what she wanted to be and went after her dreams at all costs: She’s going to be herself. She’s going to live free and manifest that happiness, which is why she ended up with a guy (actor Luke James) who just loves to love her.
LAS: I’m here for it. What season is this, three?
JD: No. Season four. I think that the writers do a really good job of keeping the story moving forward so that you’re growing with the characters, which means your story is moving forward.
LAS: I agree, completely. What was it like, the first time you stepped on set and was like stepping into the shoes of your character.
As an artist, and a storyteller, I will say that I learned how to take charge of my character, and you have to learn how to be vocal about things that don’t make sense to you. Because it’s a collaborative, you know, experience for everyone.
So, you know, you’re not speaking out for your character, you have to, first of all, love your character. And that’s one thing I notice how much I love my character.
LAS: You love your character. That’s a great answer. An executive producer, does Lena [Waithe] still stay in the mix the way she did when she first started? Or she kind of like enjoying it as an audience member? Like I am.
JD: That I don’t know, because I wasn’t on the first season. I came on the third season, as you know.
LAS: I do not know. I thought you were part of the previous season.
Yeah, a lot of people thought it was too. [Lena Waithe] is very involved with my character [because] it’s important to her because she’s she has been fighting for my representation since day one.
LAS: Showtime has great visibility, for sure.
JD: I agree. Showtime, they’re definitely about being brand conscious.
And I’m trying to have longevity in my career. Thinking about what’s next, what can I do?
I have to be wise.
LAS: So would you way that Lena’s helped you understand that?
JD: Yes. She has been a mentor when it comes to helping me guide those lines. You know, like, what should I not say? What I should not do.
LAS: That’s good to know. In a few old interviews, you spoke about your Catholic background. Still, involved in the church?
JD: I would say that I am spiritual. I like to explore. Right now I’m exploring the teaching of the Kabbalah.
LAS: Spiritual. That feels right.
JD: I respect all religions and I am not a religious person anymore, per se, but I respect some of the teachings. I learned from Catholicism but I’m more attracted to learning about energy. We are all energetic beings.
LAS: I agree.
JD: I don’t believe, like when I was a kid, that I was going to be sent to a horrible place [hell]. I don’t believe that anymore.
Now I want to do things to become a better human being. Now, I don’t live in fear.
LAS: Excellent. Fear is low vibration. Love is a positive vibration.
JD: Yes, I just don’t want to do horrible things in the world.
LAS: Good choice. I am now reading The 48 Laws of Power
Book by Robert Greene. It’s deep. I can never be that cruel or duplicitous but that being stated, this book is pretty much how the United States of America operates. I understand that this book is banned from prisons, FYI.
JD: I have the book but I still haven’t read it. [evil] … it just It baffles me … I’m here, thankful to my energetic creator for putting me on this earth. I’m a part of the universe, which is God, and if I’m a part of God, and I am God with the universe.
LAS: Yes lady. Speak on it.
JD: You know, why would I fear that? I don’t have fear in my heart.
LAS: A beautiful way to live Jasmine Davis.
JD: It is.
LAS: Pride is right around the corner. I get the chills running up and down my spine when I think about what good hands you are in with Lena.
JD: You are right. She’s wonderful and supportive. And she makes me feel good.
LAS: She sounds like she’s a friend.
JD: She is. It does make me feel good. I don’t let it go into my head on any level. We are cool. We’re friends.
LAS: As a woman of color living her truth, I think she understood your struggle very well.
JD: Yes. She knows, especially growing up in Chicago. It was a tough world. If I wasn’t, you know, able to pretty much pass as a girl, it could have been much harder to live in the city. Yeah, much, much harder.
LAS: Has anything surprised you about how people responded to your character?
JD: Some people were surprised by how Trig (Luke James) and my character Imani, was perceived. People are embracing us. I believe that’s because Luke [James] and I have put that [positive] energy out into the world. We are both people living in our existence and not having to explain ourselves. We will call people out on their bs. You can not be pro-Black and not accept all Black people. You can’t be pro-human and not accept all humans. So if you are conscious, intelligent, and compassionate being you can respect someone. You don’t have to agree with them but you have to respect someone’s choice to exist.
LAS: I can imagine. What else do you have popping?
JD: I have music coming out that I write myself and Lena’s very supportive of that.
I have a tee-shirt line that’s about to come out.
LAS: Really, a tee-shirt line. I want the link.
JD: (laughing) There is an important message behind the tee-shirt line but I can’t share that right now but you and our community (LGBTQIA+) will love it.
LAS: I love it already. You are wonderful Jasmine Davis. Come back and speak with us when the tee-shirt line is out, please.
JD: Thank you, and I will.
“The Chi” unveils its fourth season on Sunday, May 23 at 9 PM ET/PT.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.