Comedy Central’s new show “South Side” follows two friends who just graduated Community College and are ready to take over the world with a pit stop at Rent-T-Own, a retail rental crossroads where the show’s ensemble comes together.
This show is the FUBU of sitcoms! It’s made for us and by us, Chicagoans.
Co-creators and writers Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle, as well as the show’s lead actors Sultan Salahuddin and Chandra Russell spoke with Jill Hopkins about importance and impact of a comedy series about Chicago’s South Side.
Jill: I am a proud South-Sider myself. I love to see my city and my part of town represented in a way where the narrative isn’t necessarily so negative. Tell me about why it’s important to y’all as natives that we change that narrative and present a lighter side of our world.
Bashir: I think you sort of answered the question the way you asked it. How I see the city represented in the news is like a bad day snapshot of which was an ordinary or really good week. So I certainly don’t think our show needs to lean into that. There are plenty of places that highlight the challenge. Our show respects the challenge, but our show says, look, our experience is that this is a joyful place full of loving people who take care of each other. It’s people who will teach your kids math, or people who will come to your house and fix your car. That was my experience growing up. It was a really happy, fun time. It certainly wasn’t without drama, but my overall experience is one that every time I’m home for the holidays or just coming to visit, I’m loving it.
Hopefully, the National perception of particularly black Chicago will begin to shift towards something a little more accurate. The city itself, too, will revel in its own self description as a place of joy. Not only will we begin to shift the narrative towards something more positive but also I think the people who are from the south side and from black Chicago will also realize when they talk to people who aren’t from here that what you know about me is that it is a funny ass place, which I love.
Diallo: One experience we had while we were shooting is very telling. I got into a rideshare one night and the driver says, “I heard y’all are shooting a comedy about the south side.” And I said, “yeah, maybe.” And he responded, “thank you.” I want people to know why so many of us love the south side. We wouldn’t love it if it was all just what gets depicted. Nobody would love that. He was saying, “thank you for showing people the other side of it.”
Talk to me about the characters that you all get to play. I want to start with you, Chandra, tell me how you and the woman that you’re playing carries all these other fools.
Chandra: I based her really off two girls that I grew up with, my sister and a high school friend. They were both such tough girls but also the sweetest girls in the world, and I feel like that’s Chicago women in a lot of ways. We’re tough because we have to be. This is a tough city. And we do have to sometimes carry men on our shoulders. But we are also Midwestern and Southern women at heart so there is a sweeter side of us. I also love that my character is fiercely ambitious. She has an entrepreneurial spirit. As a police officer, which has a lot of tricky gray areas, but what I love about her in that position is that she is a community cop. She’s working in the neighborhoods that she’s from.
And how about you, Sultan? Did you make your brother create the best part in the world for you?
Sultan: That’s not how it happened! I just felt naturally drawn to that character. He’s an entrepreneur and he has aspirations of getting out of the neighborhood. He’s always got some harebrained schemes on a way to increase his network. So that was a natural fit for me. And I really enjoy the adventures that he goes on throughout the episodes. We really lean into his entrepreneurial spirit and his ambition. I think our characters, everybody on our show has a huge ambition. I think, for me, most of the people I meet in life, no matter what city I’m in, and particularly on the south side of Chicago, everybody got a side hustle.
Sultan, what can you tell us about Lane 44?
Lane 44 came to birth when we were on set and between takes I would be talking to a lot of the youth. They would come up to me and ask me questions and it really hit my heart. And I figured, I’m in a position to actually make a difference and do something. I love what we’re doing. The number one question was, “how do I get involved after all of this?” And as a result, I called up a friend to help put together a nonprofit organization making films on the south side of Chicago. We put Chicagoans in front of and behind the camera and have the youth involved in many of those positions, for many reasons. One, to expose them to more in life, because that’s what my brother and I come from, we were exposed to so many things by our parents. And two, we remove that barrier where you have to get a credit to work and you need to work to get credit. So it just takes that whole thing out. So at the end of the day, now they’re going to have technical skills. Not only are they going to be able to, if they choose to go in this direction, have the tools that they need, but they’re also having an experience that may or may not change their life. And for me, that’s the best way to affect the neighborhood.
On behalf of all South Siders, we feel like you have our backs and we will certainly have your backs with our viewership.
“South Side” premieres Wednesday, July 24th at 9:30pm CT on Comedy Central.
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Photos Courtesy of Comedy Central