Showtime's "The Chi" is finally making its long-awaited return on August 4. As we gear up for the sixth season of the show, EBONY is thrilled to have featured several of the cast members on our July 2023 Cover, including the talented Jacob Latimore, Birgundi Baker, Luke James, Yolonda Rossa and Curtiss Cook. 

However, as much as we love our July 2023 Cover Stars, there is an essential trio that "The Chi" simply cannot exist without. This young group of friends has literally grown up before our very eyes, and we can't wait to witness their remarkable growth in this next set of episodes. Before diving into the highly-anticipated season, it's only right that we take a moment to get better acquainted with the kids-turned-adults who have been at the heart of this series since day one.

Alex R. Hibbert - Kevin

Image: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images.

Throughout the compelling journey of "The Chi," no character undergoes a more profound physical and emotional transformation than Kevin. Initially portrayed as a carefree and sometimes impulsive teenager, the young character is confronted with a myriad of challenges that expose him to the harsh realities of life in Chicago. As the series unfolds, he grapples with the devastating aftermath of gun violence, experiences heart-wrenching loss, and navigates the complexities of love—all of which shape him into a more mature and compassionate young man. 

From the very first episode, a traumatic event shakes Kevin to the core. At just 11 or 12 years old, he witnesses a murder—a haunting experience that lingers for several seasons. In season three, he must confront the guilt and anguish stemming from his sister Keisha's (Birgundi Baker) kidnapping. 

Subsequently, in season five, Kevin discovers love, and we witness a remarkably different side of him compared to the earlier seasons. Kevin is the embodiment of hope, yearning to break free from his circumstances, aspiring to a better future for himself and those around him. 

Yet, as he seeks to escape his confines and move forward, he finds that home can be the toughest place to leave behind. As we follow Kevin's journey to independence, let's eagerly anticipate whether he will finally achieve the freedom he desires.

Shamon Brown Jr. - 'Papa'

Image: Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images for Nickelodeon.

Undoubtedly, Papa holds the title of the most endearing character in "The Chi." As the preacher's son, he brings a delightful sense of humor to every scene, effortlessly, while delivering witty comebacks that keep us entertained. Whenever Papa graces the screen, there's never a dull moment. His unwavering loyalty and support for Kevin and Jake make him their reliable confidant. Despite his light-hearted nature, Papa's character is beautifully layered, grappling with personal challenges and displaying moments of vulnerability that make him all the more relatable.

Growing up, Papa faces the same struggles as most kids do, from the fear of approaching girls to the pressure of not disappointing his father and hesitating to call out his friends when they're wrong. As the series unfolds, Papa matures and finds ways to conquer his insecurities. He now has a girlfriend and runs a viral podcast where he offers advice inspired by bible verses. Additionally, he plays a pivotal role in helping Jake forgive someone responsible for the loss of his unborn child.

As we eagerly anticipate season six, we wonder if Papa will maintain his role as the voice of reason when faced with unforeseen challenges. Will his wisdom and humor continue to guide his friends through difficult times? One thing is for sure: Papa's journey has been one of growth and resilience, making him a cherished and unforgettable character in "The Chi."

Michael V. Epps - Jake

Image: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET.

Jake's life journey in "The Chi" exemplifies the profound impact of one's environment on their development. Raised by older brothers entrenched in gang culture, Jake couldn't escape the negative influences around him, and we witness how it shaped his initial responses to life's challenges. At the tender age of 8, he endured the heartbreak of his oldest brother Trig's arrest, fearing he would never see him again. Later, tragedy strikes again when his other brother Reg, the sole father figure in his life, is tragically murdered, leaving a significant void in Jake's world.

However, a turning point occurs when Jake is taken under the wing of Dauda, portrayed by Curtiss Cook, who shows him that life has more to offer beyond the streets. With Dauda's guidance, Jake begins to make positive changes in his life. He embraces a legitimate job, prioritizes his education, and surprisingly finds love in Jemma, which unveils a caring and devoted side of Jake that had been hidden beneath the tough exterior. 

Unfortunately, heartache strikes once more when Jemma becomes pregnant and ultimately loses the baby. The question that looms is whether this tragedy will push Jake back into the streets or become a catalyst for genuine self-improvement, aligning with the hopes of those around him. As "The Chi" unfolds, the series leaves us eager to witness Jake's character become a symbol of resilience and discover the path he will choose to take.