The Chi creator Lena Waithe is expanding her relationship with the network that launched her first series, signing a first-look deal with Showtime. Under the pact, Waithe will work with Showtime on comedy and drama projects that she both writes and produces through her Hillman Grad Productions banner.
“We fell in love with Lena’s voice when we ordered her pilot for The Chi three years ago, and we have watched in awe at her powerful impact on our industry and our culture,” said Gary Levine, President of Programming, Showtime Networks. “Lena is a creative force of nature and we are delighted that the force will be with us as she makes Showtime her creative home.”
A champion for diversity in entertainment, the Emmy-winning Waithe is a triple threat as a producer, writer and actor. The Chi, which she created and executive produces, premiered in January as the biggest launch for a Showtime drama series in two years. It was quickly renewed for a second season after growing its audience in consecutive weeks and continued to add growth in the second half of the season, with the finale outperforming the premiere by 64 percent. Produced entirely in its namesake city of Chicago, The Chi is a timely coming-of-age story that explores the humanity behind the headlines sensationalizing the South Side of Chicago.
The Chi‘s debut came on the heels of Waithe winning the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, and a GLAAD Media Award, along with an NAACP Image Award Nomination for the Master of None episode “Thanksgiving” that she co-wrote. The episode adapted Waithe’s personal experience as a queer black woman coming out to herself and her family into the character of Denise, whom Waithe played.
On the film side, it was recently announced that her latest script, Queen & Slim, will go into production in January starring Daniel Kaluuya for Universal. Waithe also serves as executive producer and writer of the upcoming series Twenties. Her producing credits include the films Step Sisters and Dear White People, which later became a TV series in which she guest starred. Her on-screen roles include Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, as well as This Is Us, Transparent and The Comeback. Waithe was also named to Time magazine’s Most Influential People of 2018. She was the recipient of The Trevor Project’s Hero Award and MTV’s Trailblazer Award.
“I have been a fan of Showtime for as long as I can remember,” said Waithe. “They make shows that most networks wouldn’t touch and they’ve never been afraid of taking risks. I look forward to introducing my Showtime family to fresh and exciting new voices. I want to make content that will challenge audiences and take them places they never thought TV could go. It’s going to be a fun ride.”