Thursday, December 2, 2021

‘The Chi’ Casts First Black Trans Actress, Jasmine Davis

Jasmine Davis, a breakout performer on ‘The Chi'
Jasmine Davis

*On the current season of Showtime’s “The Chi,” features the show’s first transgender actress, Jasmine Davis

Davis plays Imani on the show, and as noted by the Chicago Tribune,  “Imani is a beautiful, gentle and stable presence amid the chaos around her. She is the loyal girlfriend of Luke James’ Trig, and is there by his side to help him right to some long-festering wrongs,” the publication writes. 

The Chicago native said she was initially hesitant to pursue the role when her agent and manager brought it to her attention.

“I wasn’t fully out yet,” Davis said. “And I didn’t know if I really wanted to come out (as a trans person) because of everything that was going on in the world.

“I have such a good management team and they are so supportive. But they understood that I was going to have to deal with the backlash by myself no matter what support I had from people. So they said, ‘Please just read for the part. And if you like it, do it. If not, it doesn’t matter — we’ll still send you out to audition for cis roles.’

“So I read the script and I liked it. I prayed on it and I left it up to the universe — if I get a call-back, I’ll take it. Before this, I thought my big coming out role was going to be on ‘Supergirl’ for the trans role. I was up for that and I was one audition away and they chose the other girl.” (Nicole Maines was ultimately cast as the superhero Dreamer)

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“I don’t want to be looked at as a trans actor,” Davis added, “the way people talked about Black people back in the day: ‘That’s a Black actor.’ No, I’m an actor who happens to play whatever role that speaks to me. And ‘Supergirl’ spoke to me. And this role, Imani, she spoke to me.

“And I’m actually glad I’m on ‘The Chi’ because it’s a very real story and I was terrified because so much of Imani is like Jasmine.”

When asked to describe the character, Davis called her “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 (Trig, played by Luke James) who just loves her to love her.” 

Show creator Lena Waithe said she’s been wanting to show Black people in the trans community during season one of the series.

I really want to show Imani in a loving relationship. No relationship is perfect, no relationship is without conflict. But I wanted to show a character that really loved her and saw her as his equal and his partner and I didn’t want to draw too much attention to the fact that the character happens to be trans — that’s not the first thing this character would tell you about herself. She’s just a woman trying to help her man and trying to help others,” said Waithe. 

“I’ve been wanting to do this since Season 1,” she added, “but I couldn’t — no one saw it, no one got it. But there are Black people in the trans community, why would we not show that?”

Waithe said she wanted to specifically hire a trans person for the role.

“I don’t think people in the transgender community have as many opportunities to be in all kinds of shows and to stretch and to hone their craft and the only way you can become a good actor is by acting,” she said. “I want to see people who are trans nominated for Oscars and Emmys. They deserve to have roles on quote-unquote ‘prestigious shows,’ so I’m trying to do my part.”

So, what’s life like now for Davis since Season 3 kicked off?

“I still have a bit of anxiety that I’m working through,” she said.

“This is a whole new life for me. I’m able to be more vulnerable in general because I don’t have this thing that I used to hide behind. And now that people know, I basically feel like I’m starting over in life. I’ll be starting over in dating, I’ll be starting over in my career, I’ll be starting over with some of my friendships.

“I lost a lot of friends and yeah …” She pauses. “I’m just processing one day at a time and realizing I’m human and things like this happen and I’m going to get through it just like I got through everything else.”

Season 3 of “The Chi” airs 8 p.m. Sundays on Showtime.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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