The Visionary’s Manifesto Presents Entertainment Powerhouse and Executive Producer of the new Chicago based series “The Chi” premiering on SHOWTIME Jan. 7th “Derek Dudley”
Ever heard of the rapper, actor, philanthropist, activist, and oh yeah academy award winner Common? Well, Derek Dudley has been the managing force behind Common and the executive producer of movies such as “Meet the Browns” and “The Last Two Lovers at the End of The World” to name a few. Derek is working alongside some of the most notable and relevant producers and writers of our current culture on a new project called “The Chi” which airs on SHOWTIME Sunday Jan. 7th (check your local listings for exact time zones), after viewing the pilot episode I can only describe it as The Wire for its gritty street elements meets the family dynamic of Good Times 2.0, the vivid cinematography is only eclipsed by the raw talent of the cast who bring such a depth of humanity to the series that as a viewer I was transported from the couch into the brutal but equally passionate moments of what was occurring on the city streets and private households of Chicago. “The Chi” is the result when you align the abilities of a seasoned executive producer and entertainment juggernaut with an Academy Award winner “Common” and Emmy Award winner Lena Waithe (spoiler alert: they all hail from Chicago). Managing the outcomes of miraculous events and producing spectacular results seems like second nature to Derek Dudley as well as being given the opportunity to speak one on one with the man who I dare say has the Midas touch. This is not just an interview in my opinion as it is more of an event, so it is a privilege and supreme honor to share this rare introspective from a man who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring us quality and socially conscious entertainment. On behalf of The Visionary’s Manifesto and heART of Cool Let us begin this journey.
HoC: What attracted you to The Chi project?
DD: We (Common and myself) met Lena Waithe, who is the writer/creator of The Chi, when she was producing the show “Dear White People.” Lena wanted Common to do a song for the film but the timing didn’t work out, so we couldn’t make the deadline for the film but through that encounter we developed a relationship. We are all from Chicago so there was an immediate bond, Lena stated that she was involved with another project and wanted to know if we were interested in partnering with her. Common and I read the script and we agreed that it would be a great project in large part because it was about Chicago, near and dear to our hearts being able to tell a story from your home town in an impactful, insightful and different way where you could humanize people and impact the way the neighborhoods of Chicago are perceived. The other thing that attracted us was being able to give back to the city of Chicago, to know that if we could get this show up and running we could hire people as actors, assistants and in other various aspects of the show. I remember walking on the set and there was a guy who oversaw catering, he was someone I knew while growing up in Chicago. I didn’t know he owned a catering business and it was a meaningful moment when he told me that this show gave him an opportunity to market his business. Actualizing moments like this just brings the reality of what our intentions were throughout the process.
HoC: Chicago has been used as a political football and often placed in a very negative light via the media attention. How does The Chi challenge that narrative?
DD: Chicago has always been a political town, that’s where it got the moniker “the windy city” a lot of people think it is related to the weather, but It was coined as such because of all the politicians blowing hot air via their campaign rhetoric. Recent stories that you hear coming out of Chicago has to do with the killings, what the governing body is doing, the mayor and police departments in their interactions with the neighborhood etc. When you are able to show a human side of the community it contrasts against the arguments of them simply killing one another. We’ve become desensitized to the crimes within the inner-cities and that’s part of the problem in that we don’t look at people as human beings especially black people. Whether that’s police officers killing us in the streets or us killing each other, there is a systematic devaluation in human life and hopefully this show will do something to curtail that narrative. The Chi won’t be the solution because of the many problematic layers within our communities but the intention is to reinfuse the ongoing conversations and efforts of those that believe in a better path ahead.
HoC: The neighborhoods and people that are characterized in The Chi come across in a very authentic manner and exposes a pulse rarely seen among an ethnically diverse cast. What was your mindset as you took on the role of executive producer and the responsibility of not only satisfying your stakeholders but also creating raw emotionally driven scenes and scenery that would resonate with viewers and society at large?
DD: I think a lot of that has to do with the writing, Lena Waithe is on the writing team along with a diverse group of talented individuals. I was tasked as an executive producer with making sure that the entire production was authentic within the global dialogue. Lena, myself and Common wanted to make sure with this project that it maintained a high level of diversity so that when you looked from behind the camera there were men and women of color from varying ethnicities. The intention was to give these highly skilled individuals an opportunity to function in a powerful role behind the camera. This idea is inherent in the company Common and I formed called Freedom Road where we give a voice to the voiceless.
HoC: Do you feel that during your journey in music and film that you have remained steadfast within your intentions as a visionary? Furthermore, have you had to compromise your beliefs to achieve those levels of success?
DD: Regarding the first part of your question as it relates to my intentions, I have absolutely remained steadfast by putting God first and not falling victim to money. We don’t make decisions that are financially driven, that’s not the reason Common makes a certain song or that we base the totality of our decisions upon. Obviously, we are running a business and there are those elements that bear special attention, but we are driven by a moral code of conduct as it relates to remaining true to our core beliefs. That intention has allowed both Common and I to forge a lasting 20 plus year partnership that began in the fourth grade, the longevity is principle driven. It gives us a unique credibility within the entertainment world and beyond to include philanthropic endeavors. Now to your second question about having to compromise my beliefs, I have never had to betray myself with any situation that presented itself and I think a large part of that goes back to what I stated earlier in the fact that our goals are not monetarily driven.
HoC: Are you at place in your life, given all which has been created from the dynamic partnership of yourself and Common in the fields of entertainment and beyond that you can allow yourself to teach those important lessons learned or is there still more that you want to accomplish?
DD: I believe in the concept of each one teach one, I try to engage with people as I navigate through this life whether that be on the production set or out in the community. If there is a jewel of knowledge that I can bestow upon someone, it is a requirement on a deeper level because of the tremendous opportunities that I have been blessed with. I will continue to walk this path of sharing and growth.
HoC: What words of wisdom would you give to those individuals who are striving to make an impact and do great things?
DD: You have to put God first and make sure that the driving force is not one that is based in monetary gains.
We’ll see you all at the premier of The Chi on SHOWTIME!! Sunday Jan. 07. Peace and Love Family!!