‘The Chi’ Boss on How That Major Death Sets Up Season 7 5

[This story contains major spoilers from the season six finale of The Chi.]

To say that Otis “Douda” Perry, played by Curtiss Cook, had a target on his back by numerous people on The Chi would be a major understatement.

For five seasons on the Paramount+ with Showtime series Douda has served as the ultimate, suave gangster terror. Yet he also had a period where he was admired as a top businessman in the city’s Southside, and even served a short stint as Chicago’s mayor. Still, over the years, something went wrong with Douda, and The Chi viewers watched the charismatic businessman and politician choose to settle disagreements with more of his street side than with his newfound diplomacy.

So it came to little surprise that in the beginning of the finale of season six, the opening scene was of police in Douda’s club surrounding a body on the floor in a pool of blood. When the camera revealed the victim — it was Douda laying lifeless, with one bullet hole in his head.

But, who would kill Douda? Again, the long line of possible suspects was vast. First, it could have been his most obvious enemy, Alicia (Lynn Whitfield), someone who was just as powerful in the community and who wanted Douda dead for killing her brother Q (Steven Williams) in season five, recently shooting her son Rob (Iman Shumpert) and/or killing her ex-husband Attorney Alonzo (Leon). 

Or, it could have been young entrepreneur Emmett (Jacob Latimore), who Douda has had under his thumb for years and who wants out. Emmett even tried to kill Douda once in a drive-by attempt, but missed. As retribution for the failed attempt on his life, Douda ordered Emmett to kill Alicia, which the young man refused to do. To teach him a lesson, in the penultimate episode, Douda placed a car bomb in Emmett’s family car that his partner and baby son would have been in, if they hadn’t stopped to go to the bathroom first.

Then there is also Nuck (Cortez Smith), Douda’s second in command, who decided he wanted to explore a side hustle without letting his boss know. What that got Nuck, also in the penultimate episode, was an invitation from his boss to “square up” for an old-fashioned street brawl, culminating in being pistol-whipped into a bloody mess and stripped of his rank.

So yes, Douda’s bill became overdue in the streets, and he paid for it in full in the end of season 16.

About this fate for one of the most vicious, feared and, some might argue, respected villains on television, The Chi’s executive producer and co-showrunner Justin Hillian (who runs the series along with co-showrunner Jewel Coronel) explains below to The Hollywood Reporter why the time came to end Douda’s reign of terror in the streets, how they came about choosing Douda’s murderer and why they also chose to kill off another beloved character in the season’s finale heading into the already renewed season seven.

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We all know that Douda had like nine lives, so why was now the time to deliver this fate? Of course, he had enough enemies at this point of people who wanted him dead.

Well, you were born and raised in Chicago, and you know that no matter how powerful somebody is, if you make too many enemies, one of them is going to be the wrong enemy. And we just wanted to keep it as authentic and true to the city and story we’re telling as possible. At a certain point, here is where we got to stop, brother. It was the end of his road.

What were the conversations with Curtiss (who plays Douda) in advance, and was he surprised?

We definitely told him in advance. Before I was a showrunner, I’ve seen people not tell people in advance. I’ve seen people find out at table reads. And I would just never do it that way. Lena [Waithe, The Chi creator] would never do it that way. Because people have to budget, plan, fund their next move — and just as a respect for everything that Curtiss has brought to the show. His professionalism. He’s elevated this show so much, he has meant so much to it. The funny thing is that he was supposed to have died in season two, but he was just so good that we were like, “We gotta keep this going! Let’s see where this goes!” He became mayor and he had quite a run. He ran amuck!

In which season did you actually tell Curtiss the end was nigh?

He knew before we started the back half of season six. The funny thing is that he knew as soon as we knew, because we had been toying with it and it just never felt like the right time. There was still plenty of meat on the bone, story-wise. And then, we’re always just looking for what feels true, what feels real, what is exciting to us. Lena always calls herself the first audience. And if we can satisfy her and satisfy the writers room, we feel like we got something.

Curtiss Cook as Douda in the season six finale of The Chi.

Sandy Morris/Paramount+ with Showtime

In the middle of the finale, there was a scene with Douda all alone on Thanksgiving, and he seemed to be in a dark place. Actually, he seemed to be contemplating suicide. Did I misinterpret that scene? I noticed an underlying theme throughout this season involved Black men and their mental health challenges.

Yeah, it’s a great observation and a great question. We really wanted to paint people as fully realized as possible. He’s not a monster. He has feelings. He has insecurities. He has things that he’s dealing with. And to show an incredibly powerful person that people fear, but not very many people loved anymore. I think Douda as a character was Otis Perry, somebody who had the pizza spots — and was the mayor! He always had one foot in the streets, one foot out. And he kind of found himself with both feet in the streets. And that was never who he really wanted to be, no matter how much of a villain he was. He wanted a real legacy, and I think at that point, he realized that that was never going to happen. In that scene, it’s Thanksgiving and nobody asked you to pull up and get a plate? It’s him alone on Thanksgiving, and he has a wife and a mistress, with nowhere to go. I think that hit him pretty hard.

So, Nuck (Cortez Smith) was dealing on the side and Douda finds out. He is Douda’s number two, and Nuck get beaten within an inch of life by his boss. But why allow Nuck to be the one to kill Douda at the end, when Alicia had him within her crosshairs?

We didn’t want to outsmart ourselves. We didn’t want to try to get cute for the sake of tricking people. We wanted a lot of people to be motivated to do it, and we wanted Alicia to get to that point. But ultimately, it felt like, after the fight with Nuke, the person who was actually going to pull that trigger is going to be Nuke.

Then you pull a double-whammy on the audience and have Nuck kill Alicia’s son Rob, too! This family is having bad luck.

Iman is just a great person. He did such a phenomenal job evolving into that character, showing us who that character was. And it was sort of a give and take, as we had our ideas and then he took it to the next level. And then, when Lynn Whitfield came in, and he had his chemistry and rapport rapport with Hannaha [Hall, who plays Rob’s girlfriend, Tiff]. It was not an easy call to make, because we felt like that trio was really hitting their stride. But ultimately, we always defer to the story. And we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. But we wanted to be able to leave season six with this. When you lose an energy like Douda, we wanted to leave off with Nuck, who is taking the reins, and then Alicia, who has had this loss. We wanted to have those two things happening as we move into season seven.

Zane Smith as Ronnie and Cortez Smith as Nuck in the season six finale.

Sandy Morris/Paramount+ with Showtime

Does Nuck have the cojones to stand up to Alicia and her syndicate?

(Laughs) It’s a great question. We’re going to see!

There is a lot death in this season finale of The Chi. But it seems that, whenever we get hit with such harshness or darkness, the next season comes back with a bit of a reprieve. Will that happen in season seven?

We strive to tell a well-balanced story. You know, it’s just like the city, the joy, the pain, the ups, the downs. All of it. And it will all continue.

You came from Snowfall before joining The Chi. The John Singleton-created series seemed much darker than this one. But in your opinion, what are the similarities and differences as a writer and producer?

I think that’s a great question. It’s funny, I think the similarities are going to be the same as the differences. Because the similarities are that they’re both visions from really strong, really talented people who are passionate about their cities. You have John Singleton, who came up in the era of Snowfall, and he was in that writers room every year — rest in peace — every day, he was in that writers room pounding on the table like, “We got to get this shit right! It gotta be right! It gotta be real!” And so, Snowfall spoke to his experience and the story that he wanted to tell about his city, and how someone like Franklin [Saint played by Damson Idris] would make the choices that they made. And how it was this much larger plan at stake, and he was just a pawn in that, and the devastation that it created in South Central. And in that respect, John was really wanting to give context to this epidemic.

For Lena, she created this show because she felt like there were so many statistics in Chicago, and she was like “These are all people. They all matter.” That’s why the whole point of the pilot was that she fell in love with Coogie [Jahking Guillory], and he died. Because he is not a statistic. He is somebody’s son, he’s somebody’s brother. That’s what this show was about for Lena. So, I think the similarities are just the point of view, and the reason the shows exist. And then the differences come from the fact that there’s just two people telling different stories through their own lens.

Would it be fair to say that you tried to show more of the joy in the community in The Chi?

There was a lot of joy in Snowfall, too. I mean, it got dark. But the joy is very important to us in The Chi. And I think part of it is because we started The Chi with three 12 year olds and seeing them go from 12 to 18, and now running into 19.  You want to show that innocence coming up in the city, and that loss of innocence, and there is lots of joy and pain in that. And then because there is a lot less crime in The Chi, it allows for a character like Emmett to find his way and be silly. And his dad is a former Black Panther, he’s a guy also trying to figure it out and how to be there for his sons.

Lynn Whitfield as Alicia with Jill Marie Jones as Bianca in the season six finale.

Sandy Morris/Paramount+ with Showtime

Justin, you know I’m going to ask, what can you tell me about season seven?

I can tell you, [he smiles] it is going to be explosive!

All episodes of season six of The Chi are now streaming on the Paramount+ With Showtime plan.

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