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THE CHI - David Rodriguez Interview

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Interview with David Rodriguez from Showtime's Original Show, THE CHI

From THE CHI to SCANDAL, David Rodriguez has been directing and producing incredible content for nearly two decades and I am thrilled to be conducting his first official interview with SpoilerTV!

David, thank you so much for granting SpoilerTV an interview! We have enjoyed watching your work on THE CHI, ANIMAL KINGDOM, CHICAGO MED, and my personal favorite, ROSEWOOD. For those who are new to your latest project, THE CHI, what can you tell us about working on this epic American drama?

THE CHI is the most cinematically and directorially rewarding experiences I've had so far. It's been great to be such an integral part of this amazing show as a producer and director. Being responsible for launching the show, as well as maintaining the authenticity of the show and Lena Waithe's vision, is a huge responsibility that I've really enjoyed.

The story is about hope and the tragedy that surrounds a community on the south side Chicago. Being from South Bronx, I have a unique understanding of that experience and journey that these characters are going through.

As the Co-Executive Producer and Director of THE CHI, what are your favorite aspects of working on this show?

It all starts with great writing and we have excellent writers working on this show. Script after script, the writers were amazing.

In addition to working with a talented cast and crew, I inspired every director to film their best episode. I approached being the co-executive producer and director of this show with the thought that every episode should be better than the next. They should all be elevated, they should all be great.

You directed three episodes on THE CHI, Alee, Ghosts, and The Whistle. What did you enjoy most about working on these episodes and did you face any challenges while filming them?

What I enjoyed most about it was getting to direct a cast that was going to go straight through for nine episodes. They were in these characters perpetually for the next four to five months. They were committed to being there day in and day out. It was great to be a part of that in the second and third episode.

Going into the seventh episode, we already had momentum. I'm really proud of this episode and it's probably the best thing I have ever directed.

Do you have any favorite cast members? They are all amazing. Incredibly talented and committed. To the neighborhood and the everyday is exciting to go work.

As the producer and director, you're on the ground day in and day out. You are constantly on the set and making sure everyone is getting the support that they need. You end up having a cast that become like your children. In real life, I have four boys. They are all special in their own way and I don't love one any more than the next. In regard to the show, I was really lucky to have a cast of amazing actors. They were incredibly committed to the roles, the neighborhood, and to the spirit of THE CHI. Every day was exciting to go to work. I loved them all.

The writers and cast of THE CHI are incredibly talented! How has their content influenced your work directing and producing the show?

I was very fortunate and blessed to experience and read some of the best television writing that I've ever read. That together with incredibly talented cast members bringing those stories to life, it makes my job so easy. It inspires me to do more, to do extra, to think about it just a little bit more. The extra shot, the extra take. The actors were all so talented, they gave me so much to work with. The incredible writing made my job so easy!

I relish in the show's success and I'm excited to see what happens next season.

Chicago is an incredible city! What was it like filming on location? Do you and the cast have any favorite local hangouts?

Due to my work on Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and Chicago Fire, I was very familiar with the city when I took the job on THE CHI. I knew that the crews there had this really amazing Midwestern work ethic. They had a great, "let's get it done at any cost" attitude. They worked exceptionally hard during filming, which allowed people to enjoy their time off. People want to enjoy their families and the weekends; this cast and crew made that possible.

In regard to hangouts, I lived at Gibson's. I was probably there three times a week. That became my hang out as well as the hang out for several cast and crew members.

Before joining THE CHI, you worked on a long list of amazing shows. Which have been your favorite to work on and if you could pick one episode of any show you directed or produced, for new fans to watch, what would you recommend?

I would recommend episode seven, The Whistle, of THE CHI. I think it's the best episode of television that I've ever directed. If you took the essence and the soul of what it's like to direct one hour of a dramatic piece, I think that the seventh episode encompasses everything.

I also just finished episode two of Animal Kingdom, which is going to be huge and epic.

As I continue to work on incredible shows, I'm hoping that every year, I can say that I've directed my best episode.

Talk us through your creative process? How do you prepare for directing or producing an episode of a television show?

Preparation includes diving into the script and understanding what is happening in the script. It's a long journey told over multiple episodes. I need to understand the characters, where they are and where they are going. Really understanding the character's journeys and whose stories I'm telling is incredibly important.

Then, I focus on putting all of the pieces together. That includes everything mentioned above as well as costumes, props, etc. The prep process is so short, there is a lot to pack in before you start shooting.

Once I understand what story I'm telling and where I'm telling that story, everything seems to fall into place really well. I think both geometrically as well as with a lot of emotion, which is helpful.

In addition to THE CHI, what other projects are you currently working on and what can we look forward to watching in the future?

I'm currently working on season three of Animal Kingdom, which will premiere in June.

I also directed episode six of The Resident and episode eleven of Chicago Med, which airs in a few weeks.

When you aren't directing or producing, how do you kick back and relax?

Riding my Harley Davidson.

Any favorite places to ride?

Any mountain, any canyon. I've also enjoyed riding the back country of Illinois and Wisconsin. Sturgis is on my bucket list. I've been working so much, I haven't had an opportunity to take a long vacation or trips.

Is there anything that we haven't covered today, that you would like to share with your fans?

Keep following my work. At some point, I'm hoping to create a couple things on my own. No spoilers or sneak peeks at this time.

I love the one-hour drama format and serialized shows. I gravitate toward things that are grounded in reality. That said, I'd be interested in the science fiction world, as long as it's grounded in the real world.


In addition to my questions, several of David's fans submitted questions for the interview! Check them out below.


Considering the depiction of Chicago through the media's lenses, displayed to the rest of the world. What was the greatest challenge in shedding a more positive light on the city?

I don't know if I ever had a challenge in shedding a positive light on Chicago. I think the media tends to polarize certain situations, especially the gun violence in Chicago. There's gun violence everywhere. The show wasn't about that, it's about people.

Drawing on my own background, I came up in a good neighborhood with good people wanting to do good things. I used that to inspire the actors to take a more responsible approach to the characters they are portraying.

I also had a conversation with them about the n word. It seemed to be the go too word as a filler for some of the actors. I said, "Let's not be that show that's dropping the n word every other sentence. Let's be the show, that shows the community of people watching at large that this is not what we're all about. The well is deeper. The wants and desires are positive."

I never felt like it was a challenge to depict Chicago in a positive light. It was an inspiration to take the community and the people living there and try to create the most positive characters possible, especially with all of the negativity surrounding them.

The show appeals to a wide audience. When creating it, did you have a specific target group of viewers?

We wanted to put a great story on film, that people wanted to watch. Regardless of race, age, etc. People across the board are really enjoying the show.

Are the events depicted on the show based on actual cases?

Generally, the show is about many of Lena's experiences, but I can't answer that specifically. I don't know if the show is a depiction of one specific situation.

Some of the characters are good people, getting caught in difficult situations. It seems like their emotions can conflict their morals. Do you (David) personally feel empathetic for the characters that he is directing? Have there been times when it was hard to direct a specific scene?

For sure. Emotions and past decisions can cloud anyone's judgement, including mine. The difficult scenes lead to longer discussions. We talked about every scene.

To give a specific example, when Jason calls his friend at the restaurant and tells him that he needs to get the gun, it was a jump. It was a big jump. Where does it go next? I think that when you saw episodes three and four, it's obvious what happened. The better parts of Brandon motivated his thought process, but it was definitely a conversation that we had. This was a big leap for Brandon. I think that we all, as an audience member, understood the pain that he was going through.

Okay, this one is actually from me (Kelly). I was devastated when Rosewood was canceled! What was it like working on that show and do you think Rosewood and Villa would have ended up together?

Oh man. *Laughs* I don't know. Maybe they get married?

(I'm going to go ahead and agree with David on this one! I'm team #Rosilla all the way!)

I read that you used to be a corrections officer. What was that like?

That was a fun part of my life. I was a corrections officer and then a police officer on the streets for a short time.

That part of my life impacted how I work as a director and how I deal with people. Ultimately, everybody needs attention and to be loved. Serving as a correctional and police officer helped shape me as a director.

What is your dream project to direct/produce?

I'd love to direct a ginormous Marvel or DC Comics movie, one with all of the bells and whistles. I really like Punisher a lot as well as Spiderman. I loved the Spiderman cartoons from the late seventies and early eighties and a movie focusing on that version of Spiderman would be great story to tell!

That said, I'm already experiencing my dream right now. I wake up every day and drive to the Warner Brother's lot. I love what I do and I love going to work!

David, thank you so much for your time! We have really enjoyed our time with you and we look forward to watching your work on THE CHI, as well as your future projects!

Be sure to follow David Rodriguez on Twitter, Instagram, and check out his website!

Interview Conducted By:

Kelly Anne Blount
SpoilerTV Writer
USA TODAY Bestselling Author

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