Michael Epps Talks Playing "Jake" on Showtime’s ‘The Chi’

Shirley Ju

Michael Epps is a child star in the making. His first audition landed him as an extra on Fox’s Empire before landing a recurring role on Showtime’s "The Chi."

Michael Epps is quickly becoming a favorite in the entertainment industry, not only through the small screen but also with music. The child star on the rise is best known for playing Jake on Showtime’s award-winning series The Chi, created by the one and only Lena Waithe. The show follows a group of locals on the South Side of Chicago who come together through the need for connection and redemption. Fans of The Chi can look forward to Season 3 slated to premiere on June 21st of this year.

Born in Virginia, Michael moved to Chicago before he could even talk or walk. Regardless, Michael always knew he wanted to follow in his mother’s footsteps and act. His first audition resulted in an extra role on FOX’s Empire. Last year, he also released his debut single “Drip,” proving there’s no limits when it comes to doing what you love.

AllHipHop caught up with Michael Epps via Zoom to discuss his experience filming The Chi, his character Jake, working with Luke James, and more!

AllHipHop: How’s quarantining over there in Chicago?

Michael Epps: I’m doing alright. I get to stay in the house all day, that’s the good part about it. I like working on set too, but I also like staying in the house. If there’s nothing to do, I want to get out.

AllHipHop: How did you get your start in acting? I know your mom played a big influence.

Michael Epps: I started acting real young. It started with a small Youtube series that my mom was originally on. She saw how well I took directions on the series, she asked me “what about acting?” I never thought about acting, so I said “nah, but we could give it a try.” She decided to dip my toes in that and now here I am. This is how Jake was created.

AllHipHop: What were you doing on Youtube series?

Michael Epps: I was on one episode, I had a small little part. I played my mom’s son. I came in from school one day, I was sitting on the table doing homework. Real small. If it was in the real acting world, it’d be like an extra role.

AllHipHop: How has your experience been filming The Chi?

Michael Epps: It was a great experience! The Chi was the first thing I ever booked, my first big role! It was a new experience, I got to meet new people. It was real fun because it’s something I’d never done before, something I’d never ever thought I’d see myself doing. When I actually got to experience it, I was real shocked. It went by so fast. We filmed for probably 4 to 6 months.

AllHipHop: How would you describe your character Jake for those who haven’t seen the show?

Michael Epps: Jake is a kid who struggles to find the right guidance in life. He doesn’t really know what he wants to do in life, because he doesn’t have a good father figure to look up to. His brother had been raising him, but his brother hasn’t been doing a real good job raising him because his brother has him in the streets. To Jake, being in the streets is something cool. That's what he wants to grow up and do. But to his other friends and people looking from the outside, they’re like “that's not it.” Jake doesn’t know it’s not a good thing because that’s what he grew up on and was around his whole life, but now he knows. Coming up in the new season, you’ll see all that.

AllHipHop: What’s your relationship w/ Lena Waithe?

Michael Epps: I have a real cool relationship with Lena, we all do. We barely see Lena around. In this upcoming season, she guest stars and we all got to be around her more. It’s great, we all have a good relationship with Lena.

AllHipHop: How was filming with Luke James?

Michael Epps: It was real fun! So fun shooting with Luke James because he comes on set with the biggest energy in the world. He has the most energy out of everybody. It could be 4 in the morning, 5 in the morning, everybody’s walking on set and they’re all tired. Here comes Luke singing about everything! His response, everything’s a song. He makes a song out of everything. It's amazing shooting with Luke, it really is.

AllHipHop: What can we expect from Season 3?

Michael Epps: You can expect a lot of cliffhangers, real things that go on in the real world. It’s a lot. You have to stay tuned and watch season 3.

AllHipHop: Last year, you released your debut single “Drip.” Did music or acting come first?

Michael Epps: Music just came in the picture, it’s something I wanted to try. We got in the studio, we’re messing around and we made “Drip.” We wanted to see how far music could go. We wanted to give myself different things.

AllHipHop: What’s the creative process like in the studio versus on set?

Michael Epps: In the studio, I was more comfortable. I got comfortable faster in the studio than on set because when we’re in the studio, it’s with a family friend. Plus the studio I recorded in was a closed room, so nobody could see me. It’s just me in there, I got settled in way faster than I did on set.

AllHipHop: Are you still making music?

Michael Epps: Not at the moment because of quarantine. When quarantine’s over, most definitely. I’ll be back in the studio.

AllHipHop: Who’s your Top 5?

Michael Epps: Lil Baby, Lil Durk, G Herbo, Polo G, and Moneybagg Yo.

AllHipHop: Goals for yourself as an actor/artist at this point in your career?

Michael Epps: A goal for me as an actor, I want to get so big in the acting world that I don’ t even have to audition anymore. They just call my phone offering me the role. “Hey, we got this movie for you. We’re offering you this much.” I don’t even have to go in and audition! In the artist world, same thing. I have labels calling my phone. Artists calling my phone to do features for me, I don’t have to reach out to them. It’s a lot, I have a lot of goals.

Michael Epps 2
Photo Credit: Robert Smith

AllHipHop: What do you think it’s going to take to get to the point where they’re just calling you up?

Michael Epps: It’s going to be a process to get there. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot.

AllHipHop: How was the auditioning process before you finally landed the role as Jake?

Michael Epps: I wouldn’t say hard. My very first few auditions were in pilot season, that’s when I got the audition for Jake. I was auditioning for 3 straight days and The Chi was one of them. Originally I went to audition for Coogi, but they sent me back for Jake. That next day, I got the call back for that. The very next day, I went in for the second audition. Some weeks later, they called my phone saying I’d got it.

AllHipHop: Do you have any advice for somebody who wants to do what you do?

Michael Epps: My advice for upcoming actors is you have to have perseverance. You have to be consistent with it. You’re not going to get your first role ASAP, right off the bat. It’s going to be months, probaby years! You never know. You have to keep going. You can’t be quick to give up, because you’re going to get a role eventually.

AllHipHop: What can we look forward to next?

Michael Epps: When quarantine is over, more music. Thinking about dropping a clothing brand, some merch. Right now, what we have in mind for the name is Crown Me. We’re working on it. I was meant for this crown!

AllHipHop: How excited are you for Season 3 to air?

Michael Epps: I am so, so excited! This is going to be the best season yet, because of everything they touch on. I’m so excited for season 3, you don't understand! Oh my gosh, can’t wait!

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