From Emmy® winner Lena Waithe, The Chi is a timely coming-of-age drama series centered on a group of residents who become linked by coincidence but bonded by the need for connection and redemption. In the South Side of Chicago, real dangers threaten to squelch dreams, and the simplest decisions can have life or death consequences.
On July 29th, 2021 FOLCS screened a recent episode of The Chi, in which “Jada” played by Yolonda Ross, copes with the pain of having to share the news of her breast cancer diagnosis with her loved ones. In this Conversation, Yolonda joined us to discuss the portrayal of the Black experience in media throughout the years, the disparities in access to healthcare for Black women, and how the emotional journey of playing this role has lead her into advocacy and activism.
Yolonda Ross is currently reprising her role as the no-nonsense single mother ‘Jada’ in the fourth season of Showtime’s acclaimed series, The Chi. The show features timely storylines such as defunding the police and the rightful access to healthcare- something Yolonda’s character faces in her fight against breast cancer.
An independent film darling, Yolonda made her feature film debut in the award-winning independent film Stranger Inside in 2001. She went on to win an IFP Gotham Award for Best Breakthrough Performance for the role, as well as received her first Film Independent Spirit Award nomination in the category of Best Debut Performance. In 2014, her work in the John Sayles film Go For Sisters garnered her a second Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Yolonda has appeared in Denzel Washington’s award-winning feature Antwone Fisher, as well as the independent films Yelling To the Sky opposite Zoe Kravitz, Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, Lila and Eve starring Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez, Whitney directed by Angela Bassett for the Lifetime Movie Network, Annie Silverstein’s Bull, Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, Ana Lily Amirpour’s Bad Batch, Nuotama Bodomo’s Afronauts, and Elegance Bratton’s award-winning short film Walk For Me, which Yolonda starred in and produced.
Yolonda has also portrayed recurring characters on several high-profile series including, Ms. Green in Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix series The Get Down, Claudia on ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder, and her role as documentarian Dana Lyndsey on HBO’s Treme. Additional television credits include guest starring roles on Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, 24, and Chicago PD. She was also featured in the PBS American Masters documentary How it Feels To Be Free, about Trailblazing African American Women Entertainers.
Yolonda made her directorial debut with the 10-minute hybrid short film/music video Breaking Night, about a young girl taking control of her destiny. The short film officially became the music video for the famed Manfred Mann song, “Blinded By the Light,” and was in rotation on VH-1 Classics.
Most recently, Yolonda performed in David Mamet’s newest play Four American Women. The two have developed a mutual admiration of each other’s work, which inspired Mamet to write the roles of Nora in the hit show The Unit, and Kelly in the HBO biopic Phil Spector specifically for her.
As a writer and director, Yolonda is currently developing her feature debut, Scenes From Our Marriage, along with other film and television projects.
Yolonda is a member of the prestigious LAByrinth Theater Company in New York City. She is a native of Omaha, Nebraska, and is current based between NYC and LA.