Yolanda Ross from “The Chi” talks about her character and the biggest hurdle she’s faced

Star of Showtime’s “The Chi,” actress Yolonda Ross sat down with The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk in the latest episode of “At Home With The Creative Coalition,” a podcast featuring unplugged and uncensored conversations with today’s biggest stars. In the newest episode, Ross talks about what makes her character Jada so relatable, her hardest moment as an actress, getting to work with John Sayles on “Go for Sisters,” and much more. Highlights below. 

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Highlights from “At Home With The Creative Coalition” featuring Yolonda Ross – 

On the beauty of her character Jada in “The Chi”: “Yeah, with Jada. I mean, and that’s the thing. That’s the thing that I get so much, you know, so often from people just randomly– how they do identify with her, because she is a single woman. She is a mother. She is working to take care of her son, to take care of herself. She wants love, you know? It’s like, what is so singularly black about that? Or what’s so singularly white, or Latin, or any race, or urban, or country? That is universal. So it speaks to everybody, who she is at her essence. And then to read the words, I was like, ‘Oh, well…’ It just rolled out of my mouth. The dialogue just rolled out, because it was written so well. It was written in a way that, you know, it’s how we speak. It’s how you speak when you’re familiar with people, you know. So I did this audition. I felt great about it, forgot about it, but obviously I didn’t get it because it was like, at the end of 2016, December, I was at home with my parents. And it came through again. And I was like, you know– and you’re looking at the text, and it’s like, ‘Didn’t I already do this?’ You know, it’s like when you already know the words, and they were like, ‘Yeah, they came back around again, but they want you to go to network.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, wait, so wait, what?’ So then they explained everything to me. They had, you know, hired a whole other cast shot, the pilot, Showtime did not like it. So they recast the show. It was a whole recast. I think the only people from the original are the character Tiffany, and the character Papa. And everybody else, you know, just different cast. And so I went in, went to LA– because I was at my parents’ home in Nebraska at this point. I went to LA, met Rick, the director. And you get nervous at this point. Because this is like, this is network. This is it. This is like, ‘This, is it or it’s not,’ you know?”

On her hardest moment in acting: “Let me think about that. Most challenging…. Well, I’ll say just for Yolonda, period, anytime I have to dance, that is challenging. I do not dance. So that’s one thing. But there was actually– it was funny, and it kind of shocked me. There was an episode in season three, I think it was, and I was going out with this character named Ronnie. And he came over to like, he came over to Jada’s house having drank too much. So he was inebriated. And he grabbed her, you know, by her wrist and kind of pulled her into him. And in that moment, I had never felt that kind of caged feeling of being trapped. And for me, it did actually freak me out in that moment. Because, I mean, even though we are acting– like, for me, I am becoming somebody else when I act. So it’s like, I’m becoming. It’s not acting, I am someone else. That feeling of being trapped in somebody like having me. It’s like, I had to catch myself to remember this as an actor and not to hit and strike because I was feeling, you know, restrained. And that was scary. I wanted to kind of like– flight or like, whatever you call that, when you want to just run, hit, do whatever you got to do to get away. But I felt like that in that moment, even though it was, you know, it was work. That was a weird feeling to feel.”

On working with John Sayles: “I had met him. I auditioned for the movie that you’re talking about, “The Honeydrippers.” And he was not familiar with me at that point. Because I was referred to him from somebody at Sundance that he used to work with. You know, he looked at my resume after meeting me and everything and he was like, he didn’t realize he had seen me so many times. And he said, ‘You’re different people every time I see you.’ So that was like the hugest compliment. And then, you know, I didn’t get that part because he thought it was, like, too young-looking for it. But then, you know, come back around with “Go for Sisters.” I don’t know how many years later that was, but, you know, he offered me this part. I’m looking, you know, I look at the script. And I’m like, ‘Okay.’ So first, you see what the name is. You see them in the script. And then you go to the end of the script, because it’s like, ‘Well, how far do they go? You know, do they get killed off? Or do they just leave?’ She’s all the way through the script. And I was like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. So she’s like, she’s a main character. She’s one of the sisters.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, wow. Oh, my gosh.’ I mean, that was amazing to me. So it was like, me and LisaGay both were like, ‘Yo, he just…’ We both did the same thing when we talked about it. We looked at the name at the front, and then went to the end of the script to see if they made it to the end. You know, because it’s just like, ‘Okay, how much– first off, am I going to make it through? How much time is this going to take? Oh, I’m the whole film,’ you know. So it was, it was pretty amazing and pretty fun to do. And we shot out here in California, and we went to Mexico, and just the opportunity to work with him. It was really everything that I felt it was going to be, and it’s everything that I really enjoy about filmmaking, because we– you know, it was an independent project. We had a house in Burbank, and we used it also as the production house. We stayed there, like, three of us. You know, and we just did everything. Like, we all had dinners, we, you know, that kind of thing I just love because it’s like, you’re at film camp, you’re away from everybody, you’re making this thing. And you go off and do it, then you come home and you talk about work and da da da. And you get up and you go do it the next day. So that’s what I enjoy.”


More about “At Home With The Creative Coalition”
Hosted by The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk, “At Home With The Creative Coalition” brings listeners intimate portraits, key moments of discovery, and “art and soul” conversations with iconic entertainment industry personalities from the big screen to the boardroom, from L.A. to D.C. Listen now at http://thecreativecoalition.org/podcast.

Upcoming guests include Lea Thompson (“Unplugging,” “Back To The Future”) and Frances Fisher (“Watchmen,” “Reptile”).

Previous guests include Jason Alexander (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Shiri Appleby (“UnREAL”), Justin Bartha (“The Hangover,” “National Treasure”), David Alan Basche (“The Exes”), Asante Blackk (“This Is Us”), Carly Chaikin (“Mr. Robot”), Aaron Cooley (“The First Lady”), Wilson Cruz (“Star Trek: Discovery”), Alan Cumming (“Schmigadoon!, “The Good Wife”), Ethan Cutkosky (“Shameless”), The Creative Coalition President and actor Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary”), Lea DeLaria (“Orange Is the New Black”), Griffin Dunne (“This Is Us”), Kerry Ehrin (“The Morning Show”), Wayne Federman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Michael Fishman (“Roseanne,” “The Conners”), Jim Gaffigan (“The Jim Gaffigan Show”), LaMonica Garrett (“1883,” “Sons of Anarchy”) Willie Garson (“And Just Like That…”), Judy Gold (“The Other F Word”), Nicholas Gonzalez (“The Good Doctor”), Clark Gregg (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Tony Hale (“Veep,” “Arrested Development”), Evan Handler (“And Just Like That…,” “Californication”), Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Middle”), Jon Huertas (“This Is Us”), Jason Isaacs (“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Harry Potter”), Susan Isaacs (“Compromising Positions”), Richard Kind (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Nathan Kress (“iCarly”), Chad Lowe (“Supergirl”), Aasif Mandvi (“The Daily Show”), Rachel Mason (“Circus of Books”), Marlee Matlin (“CODA”), AnnaLynne McCord (“Let’s Get Physical”), Eric McCormack (“Will and Grace”), Wendi McLendon-Covey (“The Goldbergs”), Katherine McNamara (“Shadowhunters”), Melissa Manchester (“Don’t Cry Out Loud”), Molly Smith Metzler (“Maid,” “Shameless”), Marta Milans (“Shazam!”), Rob Morrow (“Billions”), Kathy Najimy (“Younger”), Ken Olin (“This is Us,” “Thirtysomething”), Haley Joel Osment (“Future Man,” “Entourage”), Joey and Daniella Pantoliano (“The Matrix,” “Memento”), Ross Patterson (“Range 15”), Bill Prady (“The Big Bang Theory”), Kyla Pratt (“The Proud Family”), Jessica Queller (“Supergirl”), Sheryl Lee Ralph (“Abbott Elementary”), Anthony Rapp (“Star Trek: Discovery”), Reid Scott (“Veep”), Mona Scott-Young (“Love & Hip Hop”), Alena Smith (“Dickinson”), Julie Taymor (“The Lion King”), Tramell Tillman (“Severance”), Krista Vernoff (“Grey’s Anatomy”), KT Tunstall (“Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” “Suddenly I See”), Matt Walsh (“Veep”), Alfre Woodard (“Clemency,” “Luke Cage”), Constance Zimmer (“Good Trouble”), and David Zucker (“Airplane!,” “Scary Movie”). 

More about The Creative Coalition
The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating its members on issues of public importance. The Creative Coalition also creates award-winning public service campaigns including #RightToBearArts to promote the efficacy of the arts. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President. For more information, visit https://thecreativecoalition.org.