“South Side,” co-created and co-executive-produced by Chicago native Bashir Salahuddin, is the latest Chicago-centric show to hit the small screen. The comedy series, filmed entirely in the city, premieres July 24 on Comedy Central.
The show centers on the hilarious antics in and around a South Side furniture rental store and for lead actors and fellow native Chicagoans Chandra Russell and Sultan Salahuddin, showing a lighter side of Chicago was paramount. “We wanted to show that Chicago was just not about all the challenges you see on television,” said Salahuddin.
Here, we spoke with Russell and Salahuddin, the stars and also writers on the show, about “South Side” and its mission to depict the Chicago that everyone should see.
CD: When the meeting of the minds got together to create “South Side,” what were your initial thoughts?
CR: Being from here we decided to put on for Chicago and give it the comedy it deserves. For me, just having so many stories that I had not seen on television, stories of my own and also stories of my family and friends ==, I just felt it was time.
SS: As far as going into the writing room, I was extremely excited because I knew I had an opportunity to work with wonderful minds who were able to put Chicago on the map in a way that it deserved to be.
CD: Your characters, Sergeant Turner and Simon James, are at the show’s forefront; was there something you saw or didn’t see in other Chicago-based shows that helped you develop these roles?
CR: I love Sergeant Turner; she’s tough, but lovable and goofy at the same time.She is a police officer from the South Side and I love that the people do not intimidate her. I wouldn’t say she’s a dirty cop, but I do think she’s complex with her decision-making.
SS: For my character, it was a treat to be able to be silly and funny on the screen in the [unique] way that Chicagoans are.
CD: Speaking of characters, fellow Chicago natives Lil Rel and LisaRaye will guest star on “South Side.” Besides yourselves and Bashir, are Chicagoans behind the camera, too?
CR:The folks in the writers’ room are predominantly from Chicago and although most of them are from the South Side, there is one guy from the West Side and one guy from the North Side, so it was definitely Chicago heavy. It was so fun not having to explain [Chicago] references, though!
SS: We had a lot of Chicagoans both in front of and behind the camera on this project. It was important for us to give it that “home” feel and let Chicago tell its own story.
CD: Chicago is definitely a city full of personality, and in many ways, provides endless comedic material. Would you say then that the city isanother character on the show?
CD: “South Side” was filmed in Chicago further adding to the authenticity you strove to accomplish. Talk about why it was important to shoot on location here.
CR: We actually shot in the neighborhoods because Chicagoans can be very tough on things [and people] who say they are from Chicago! It just added to the authenticity; the people walking around gave us energy and there were so many people who, when we told them we were filming a comedy, they were so excited!
SS: That was also one of the standards inside the writing room. We wanted to make sure our stories were not only grounded but also authentic; if they weren’t, we weren’t going to do it.
CD: You reference Chicago’s food scene in the show; in the trailer our famous deep dish pizza got a mention. Since you both are no longer regularly in Chicago, what food do you miss most?
CR: I miss everything!
SS: I definitely miss Harold’s and Giordano’s but every other week or so, I miss Italian Fiesta!
CD: “South Side” joins a long list of TV shows set in or about Chicago—how would you say the show stands out?
CR: It is made forChicagoansbyChicagoans, and the fact that we paid attention to authenticity is what I think makes it stand out. We were born and raised in this city and love it so much that this is our love letter to it. It was just important to do it right.
SS: The other thing that obviously separates it from the other shows is that it is a comedy. We’re just goofy and we’re dedicated to being funny. Everybody else is doing drama and in those lanes and they really do a good job, but to have a comedy come out of Chicago for the world to see shows that Chicago is a place where people make things happen. This is the place that gave you Robin Harris and Bernie Mac. We have some people that have come from the city that are talented. Now it’s time for you all to really see it.
CD: As you know, Chicago is no stranger to “dog whistles”, particularly when it comes to life south of Roosevelt Road; given this, what message do you hope “South Side” gives its audience?
CR: I want people to know we are not [just] headlines and statistics. We are people who are loving and giving, but most importantly, I want people to know we are funny! I want everyone to think about Chicago and say, “That must really be a funny city and I need to visit because the food looks good and the people look cool!”
SS: We want Chicagoans to know we love them, we were thinking about them in the writing room and we hope that they enjoy what we did for them.
LaShawn Williams is a lifelong Chicagoan and arts and entertainment enthusiast with a special love for stand-up comedy, music, theater and dance.