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Cortez Smith Uses His Platform For Positivity

Written by on September 7, 2023

“The Chi” actor Cortez Smith stopped by the Vocalo studios to discuss his career, the ongoing SAG and WGA strike and growing up on Chicago’s West Side.

After the death of his uncle, Cortez Smith’s grandmother put him in a talent scouting program as pre-teen in an effort to keep him removed from violence. The experience sparked Smith’s pursuit of an acting and modeling career. A few years later, the Westside Chicago native booked his first acting role as a supporting character in Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq. He told Vocalo mornings host Bekoe his time on set elevated him, expanding his worldview beyond his home neighborhood. It ultimately prompted him to transition away from his circle of friends.

“[Chi-Raq] changed my life, and made me like ‘Oh, I want this. I can’t go back to that,’” he said. “As I started taking my career more serious, the people that I grew up around started to not understand it.”

Cortez Smith stopped by the Vocalo studios to discuss his acting career, growing up on the West Side and more. Rakim Winfert for Vocalo Radio

Now, nine years later, Smith is best known for playing Nuck in Showtime series “The Chi.” Frequently portraying what he describes as “quiet, mean” and “aggressive” characters like Nuck, Smith often has to tap into negative energy to embody his roles. In turn, he has take time to get out of character post-filming by spending time with family and watching funny movies.

In reality, Smith is entirely unlike the characters he plays; he makes a point to be kind and appreciative to fans whenever he’s recognized in public, noting you never know what someone’s going through.

“I love to be a part of somebody’s happiness that day,” he told Bekoe. “This platform, I really can use this platform for good and better somebody’s life. With a 15-second interaction I done just changed somebody’s life, gave them motivation.”

Cortez Smith shared with Bekoe his experiences getting into and out of character, and coming back to real life after playing dark roles. Rakim Winfert for Vocalo Radio

Now in its sixth season, “The Chi” is on pause due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike. Reflecting on the strike, Smith emphasized the importance of staying in tune with family, self and faith because nothing is promised, especially in entertainment.

Recently, Cortez Smith stopped by the Vocalo studios to sit down with Bekoe and discuss his acting career, growing up on the West Side, getting into and out of character and more.

Keep up with Cortez Smith and “The Chi” by following him on Instagram

Written introduction by Morgan Ciocca

Interview, audio editing and production by Bekoe

Video production and photography by Rakim Winfert, video editing by Bekoe

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