Close Bag (0)

No products in the cart.

The Chi’s Yolonda Ross On How She Fell In Love With Acting—and Her Other Big Loves

With just one episode of season 5 remaining, we caught up with The Chi’s Yolonda Ross to discuss her character, Jada, her evolving career, and how she’s making space for Black women to embrace their natural beauty on- and off-screen.

Actress Yolonda Ross, who plays hard-working single mother and breast cancer survivor Jada on Lena Waithe’s The Chi, believes this latest season of the Showtime series will be remembered as the “Season of Love.” As viewers wait in anticipation to see how her character’s love story climaxes on the show’s imminent season finale, Ross reflects on all the love happening in her own off-screen life. With Sweet July, Ross shares how she fell in love with acting, what she loves most about Chicago and the joy she’s found working on the fifth season of this hit show. 

On falling in love with acting…

I was in the fashion business and I had only done one part on New York Undercover when the company that I was working for closed up in New York. And I was like, “Well, let me take my severance package and figure out how to make money and see if I can do this acting thing,” because I’d gotten bored with fashion. So, my next audition was Stranger Inside, an HBO film that I was the lead in, and that really did cement it for me. Because to spend a month-plus being somebody else…I’ve got to learn things when I’m doing this work. Otherwise, what am I doing it for? I gotta get something back. It’s so interesting to me to learn parts of myself [that] I never knew were there. I’ve always loved human behavior [and] what makes people tick.

On playing Jada on The Chi…

The one thing I’ll say about Jada is she resonates with all of us. I mean, she’s my sister, she’s aunts, she’s people’s friends. We all know that single woman with a child who’s doing everything. And in this case, we get to know how she ticks, get to know how she’s feeling, how she deals with it, how she processes things. We get to take time with her, which is great, because I feel like we all know that particular character from the outside, but many times people do not get to know these women, and to really know what they’re going through. I really love that I get to represent Black women. I get to represent us in a real and truthful way. 

On her character Jada’s cancer journey…

I reached out to Dr. Melissa Simon and she introduced me to Tatisa C. Joyner, who has an organization on the South Side that I went to [visit]. It was beautiful to hear the things that [other women have] gone through; [that] helped me. The actor has to do whatever they can to bring even more life to [the script]. That’s why I chose to cut my hair off onscreen because, especially for Black women, we get so much flak over our natural hair. To lose it because your body is fighting the chemicals that you have to put into stay alive—I wanted to show that it hurts. 

On making it as an actor…

Be yourself. Don’t try to be anybody else. ‘Cause this business already tries to make you other people all the time. What sells and sets you apart is you. I am not Viola Davis. I am not Angela Bassett. I’m Yolonda. And that’s what you get when you hire me. So be yourself, but also know the business, because it’s an ever-changing situation out there.

On people not knowing a lot about her…

Truthfully, I like it that way. I don’t want people to look at a character and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s Yolonda doing that.” You shouldn’t see Yolonda, you know what I mean? The less you know about me, the more you can focus on my characters. 

On what she loves besides acting…

I love hair. I love wigs. I got a bag of hair sitting over here now that I just went and got. I just love creating stuff, you know?

Back to All Stories