Who to Watch: ‘The Chi’ actress Yolonda Ross

By / People / Who To Watch / March 22, 2018

The accidental actress makes her Chicago debut

LIVES IN: Chicago, New York and LA. ORIGINALLY FROM: Omaha, Nebraska. CLAIM TO FAME: Stars as Jada Washington in the Lena Waithe-created Showtime drama “The Chi,” which just wrapped its first season and has already been picked up for a second. FIRST CALLING: “I went to school at Wood Tobé-Coburn [in New York] to get into the fashion business. I made clothes, was a buyer and managed stores in SoHo.” BIG BREAK: In the mid ’90s, Ross filled in for a sick friend as an extra on “SNL.” The minor part led her to get a SAG card — and eventually an agent and first audition (for the 1990s FOX series “New York Undercover,” which she nailed). “I got into acting late and, when I look back, I realize someone in the universe had a plan.” ROLE PLAYING: On “The Chi,” Ross plays Jada, a South Side single mother who shows courage and compassion in the face of struggle — a role she actively plays against type. “We get more into [Jada’s] thought process.” MUSIC, PLEASE: It’s her muse. “If I like how a piece of dialogue is coming out of my mouth, I write it as a piece of music and sing it,” Ross says. “It helps to emote through tone.” CHICAGO BUCKET LIST: Exploring more restaurants, catching live jazz at the MCA and touring a bevy of midcentury modern homes. “I almost became an interior designer,” she admits. UP NEXT: Ross is going behind the camera to direct her first feature film — which has the working title “Scenes from Our Marriage” — this fall.


Photo by Mike Chiodo