Jacob Latimore is a reality star. But you won’t see his non-existent custody battles on any version of Love & Hip Hop or Marriage Boot Camp. In the real world, you’re more likely to see working-class Black people tearfully thanking him for being a surrogate of their stories via his Emmett Washington character on Showtime’s The Chi.
That’s because he’s not a reality TV star—he’s a star made from reality.
What the 25-year-old actor has gotten from Emmett over the last five seasons is a Lena Waithe-written breakout role as a quixotic manchild. A man with as many hustles that remind him of his potential as he has baby mamas reminding him that it is necessary to grow up. But, what viewers have gotten is a character relatable enough to feel like kin. “I know this is a show that will live on and only get bigger over time because the next generations will watch it because it’s relatable,” Latimore told Cassius Life.
Since he started acting at 13, Latimore has been a teenage victim of a police shooting during the Detroit riots of 1967 (Detroit), a young street magician selling drugs to survive (Sleight), and is set to star in LeBron James’s upcoming reboot of the ‘90s classic film franchise House Party for HBO Max. Latimore’s star will go as far as the depths his characters reach in people’s hearts, and he’s just getting started as a reality star.
As a 25-year-old young man, how has Emmett’s growth mirrored yours?
Emmett’s responses to certain situations have been challenging where I’ve been like, “Oh man, I wouldn’t’ve done that, but I see why he did that.” As men, our egos are always challenged, so I think we’re seeing Emmett in a lot of spaces where he’s putting down his ego because he wants his marriage with Tiff to work. I think those are elements of growth in a character you can find in your real life. It can come in any relationship.
What has Emmett done that you haven’t agreed with but understood?
I think the breakfast scene [in season 4 after Tiff was out with another man] had guys hitting me in my DMs like, “What?! You made her breakfast?!” It was a challenging scene to do because emotionally, I’m like, “What? I’d never make breakfast right now.” So it’s this moment where this character tries a different approach instead of getting mad about it. He’s trying to come from a place of understanding and focusing on what he’s lacking.
The Chi always feels like it’s written as the world changes in real-time. How has The Chi reflected the times we’re in?
There are so many moments. I feel the police brutality moment in [season 4 when Jake gets forcibly arrested by the police]. Another one is when Keisha goes missing in Season 3. You hear about stuff like that in the news. I remember there was an Instagram post that came up about a bunch of white trucks known for kidnapping. Everybody in the comments said, “This was in The Chi.”
I saw it as them putting it all in perspective. Then, we go out to Essence Fest and the BET Awards, and we start to feel that impact a little more because we don’t get out as much. We were locked up because of COVID while filming these past couple of seasons. We have these masks on and can’t really go outside because we’re trying to get the show done, and nobody wants to get sick. We get to do press, and we finally feel that love. We see all these people lined up to hear us talk on the panel or watch the next episode. I’m in Ubers, and the drivers still see our faces. They’re like, “I know you.” That mask and hoodie ain’t help nothing (laughs). The major love comes from Chicago.
To that point, any fan interactions you’ve had with people who told you how the show has shaped their life?
I was at a restaurant eating with a couple of friends, and one of the waiters came by and talked about the storyline of Emmett with his baby mother and all of that. He almost broke down. I got up, dapped him up, and it was dope. He really connected with the character and storyline.
I think the show is still growing, as well. There are a lot of people who heard about the show but haven’t checked it out yet. I know this is a show that will live on and only get bigger over time because the next generations will watch it because it’s relatable.
What was the most difficult scene to film?
The hardest scene to film may have been the cancer scene [in season 4] when my mom tells me she has cancer. I’m actually dealing with that right now. My auntie is dealing with cancer. She’s literally battling it right now; that hit home with me. As an actor, it’s rare when what you’re doing is meeting you where you’re at in life. You can use that to fuel the art and get those emotions out because it’s real.
One of the directors was watching a film I did called Detroit before we started filming. She came back the next day and said, ‘Hey, I saw Detroit. I’m going to make you cry this season.’ I was like, ‘Oh no. I don’t feel like crying.’ But, it was necessary for the character and the storyline. It was necessary to tell that story. We saw the growth of Emmett. I was always the comedic relief, but that’s when it got real.
You’re part of the new House Party reboot produced by LeBron James. You were born years after the original trilogy ended. How did those movies factor into your upbringing? Did you rewatch them to study for this upcoming role?
I definitely grew up with it. My parents were big fans of it. That was their time. I definitely watched the movie from top to bottom. I watched all of the dance scenes and the approach. If this makes sense, I wasn’t trying to study it to remake it. I was studying it to appreciate the nostalgia, clothes, hair, and that era in time. I wanted to see why this movie worked. It worked because it really embraced where the culture was at that particular time. In order to do another House Party, we have to embrace the culture where it’s at today. That’s what our approach was. I watched it and thought, “I don’t think people are going to expect it to be this good (laughs).” I’m trying to keep calm about it, but I think people will enjoy it. You can’t compare it [to the original]. It stands alone as a modern version of it. We had to pay homage to the iconic scenes from the film, but it’s our own movie.
What is a role you wish you could play one day?
I don’t know if I have a dream role. I want to do good work with great writing and be a part of projects that impact people on a different level. I think that’s where I’m at. Obviously, some superhero stuff, but that’s what we all want to do. Outside of that, I want to make sure I’m always ready. I’m still going. I still look so young right now (laughs). Even though the beard is there, I still have that baby face underneath. I have so much more room to grow as an actor.