Working on an established TV show means falling into place. But how can you honor the lessons you learned in another life and bring your own voice to that project?

The following editorial takes us through Deondray Gossfield and Quincy LeNear Gossfield's process of working on The Chi.

Quincy LeNear Gossfield

In 2021, we decided that we had enough.

In 2006, we began as actors and indie filmmakers turned cable TV creators and directors of the GLAAD award-winning cable drama series, The DL Chronicles.

However, in 2009, while the fate of our second season hung in the balance, we found ourselves in the world of reality competition TV as producers.

We produced countless hours of talk, competition, and variety shows for over a decade until one morning in 2021, we looked at each other and asked, “Do you want to do this anymore? Our answer was a resounding, no!"

We knew then that we had to find a way back to scripted, so we set out without egos to start over again.

A difficult year later, just as we began to doubt our decision, we were selected as fellows in the inaugural filmmaker’s fellowship, Rising Voices, by Hillman Grad Productions and INDEED.

Rising Voices allowed us to write and direct the short film Flames, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2022.

A few months later, Lena Waithe, offered us an episode of the Paramount+ Showtime series, The Chi. Our episode, 504, became one of the network’s favorites of the season.

Soon after, we were offered more episodes and asked to join The Chi as Producing Directors. To that, we gave a resounding, yes!

In retrospect, our experience as independent filmmakers with 10 years of network TV producing experience prepared us for the task. It has been an amazing journey.

Deondray Gossfield and Quincy LeNear Gossfield

Deondray Gossfield

Being pegged to direct an episode of The Chi was an obvious fit in many ways: we are Black men. Quincy is from the South side of Chicago, and I am from South Central Los Angeles: two urban American strongholds; however, Quincy had lived in Los Angeles for most of his adult life, and I hadn’t lived in South LA since I was 18.

Did we still have street cred?

While breaking down the episode, we rediscovered our roots and remembered the streets that helped shape us.

What we had worked so hard to rise above and get away from was suddenly calling us back; begging and demanding reconciliation. It would be the only way to direct an authentic episode on a series based on the South side of Chicago without ghettoizing it. The trauma, the tenderness, the tumult and the treasures were all a part of the urban grit we grew up in, and it didn’t matter that Quincy’s experiences and mine happened over 1,700 miles apart. They were theoretically identical.

We wanted our character approach and cinematic style to be as nuanced and multi-dimensional as the folks we grew up around. To us, no character on The Chi is entirely good or evil; their intentions can turn off and on like light switches.

Villains and criminals in the series tend to be created out of the need for survival, rather than a proverbially presumed birthright due to the color of their skin. Conversely, good characters may be rehabilitated gangsters who made the conscious choice to be better. And whether they fall closer to “good” or “bad” on the spectrum, they all tend to have some sort of moral compass.

It was crucial that we reflected this in our direction and cinematography. Our visuals gave beauty to the urban environments we shot in, even if rundown. If a character was ever toting the line between good and evil, we made sure that their performances, body language, props, set dressing, or wardrobe always reflected their unspoken intentions.

It’s because the episode rang so true and was so beautifully shot that we were invited back to produce the entire series. It seems our South-sided lives in Chicago and LA ended up being our signature and savior.