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Just months after making TV history as the first black woman to win an Emmy for best comedy series writing, Lena Waithe is coming out with a new show, “The Chi.” Produced with Common, a fellow Chicagoan, Waithe wanted to tell the story of normal people in her city’s South Side.

“I’m really just trying to show people living,” she told ET. “I want to show people who are young and black. I want to show what it’s like to have a dream, to have a job, what it’s like to have multiple partners in your life, you know, all those things, and it’s just as simple as that. You know, that’s the weird thing about it: This is normal life.”

“The Chi” premieres Sunday on Showtime. But the 57-minute pilot already has 828,000 views.

In a savvy marketing move, Showtime released the episode on YouTube. It’s paying off in Twitter praises.

“The Chi” is already achieving the kind of acclaim the “Thanksgiving” episode of “Master of None” received. That episode earned her the Emmy win. It’s also just as personal and heartfelt.

We asked Waithe about her new show, the books she’s reading and what inspires her.

The Lily: What are you hoping people will see of Chicago’s South Side inThe Chi?

Lena Waithe: I hope people see the humanity behind the headlines. Chicago isn’t just a city riddled with gun violence. It’s a city full of working-class people, who go to work every day, love their kids and go to church when they can.

The cast of “The Chi.” (Mathieu Young/Showtime)
The cast of “The Chi.” (Mathieu Young/Showtime)

TL: What kinds of characters and plots should we see more of on TV?

LW: I want to see more queer people of color in leading roles. Not just supporting. It’s time that we get to drive the narrative. It’s okay to have supporting straight characters, and not just to gay and lesbian and bi protagonists. I’d like to see film and TV shows centered on people that are non-binary, asexual and trans. The queer community is full of more than just lesbians and gay men. There’s a plethora of stories that still need to be told.

TL: What does feminism mean to you?

LW: It means equality. In every sense of the word.

TL: What book are you reading these days?

LW: I’m reading a few. Jenifer Lewis’s book, “The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir,” Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest book, “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.”

TL: What TV shows are you watching?

LW: “Better Things.” It’s phenomenal.“Broad City.” Those ladies are this generation’s Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern.

TL: How do you relax?

LW: I try to get a massage at least once a month.

TL: Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?

LW: Dime Davis. [A writer on “The Chi.”] She called me to ask how I was feeling now that all these posters for “The Chi” are popping up all over town. The only answer I could give was “surreal.”

TL: What’s your current Internet addiction?

LW: "The Skorpion Show” on YouTube. Two brilliant gay black men in Philly giving their thoughts and opinions on everything under the sun. What’s better than that? I also love "Drink Champs.” It’s an amazing show. N.O.R.E. just gets people drunk and then gets them to spill their guts.

TL: What’s something you wish you did more of?

LW: Read more books.

TL: If you could sit down to have dinner with anyone (past or present), who would it be?

LW: James Baldwin. [He was an American novelist, essayist and playwright.]

Author James Baldwin gestures in 1985. (Los Angeles Times/AP)
Author James Baldwin gestures in 1985. (Los Angeles Times/AP)

TL: What song are you playing on repeat?

LW: Tiffany Gouché’s "The Deepest” from her album “Pillow Talk.” She’s an amazing queer woman of color who sings her face off. I love her voice.

Illustrations by Valentina Brostean for The Lily • Art direction by Rachel Orr

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