Fan obsessed with cooking shows know it’s hard to fake knife skills on TV. If an actress doesn’t know how to julienne a carrot, someone is going to call her out on social media. So La La Anthony had to perfect her knife game in order to convincingly play Dominique “Dom” Morris, a chef who does it for the culture and not the schmoney on The Chi.
“I’m not much of a cook. I’m probably the worst cook. Breakfast is the only thing I can kind of do,” Anthony says, laughing during a Zoom call. “The first day, they were like, ‘You can’t hold the knife like that. You’re going to cut your finger.’ I learned a lot, and I was able to make it look like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen.”
At first glance, it’s hard to know what to make of Dom, when Emmett Washington (played by Jacob Latimore) pops up on her stoop in season 3. She’s direct, driven and cheeky, unlike some of the women Emmett’s been able to charm in the first two seasons. Although Dom doesn’t know Emmett, she’s heard about the large weapon of ass destruction in his pants and she demands to see it. And Emmett, even though he’s there for business and not pleasure, gives her a peek.
If Chi fans were worried about the state of the show, now that Jason Mitchell’s Brandon Johnson was killed off the series, they shouldn’t be. (Mitchell was booted from the show following allegations of sexual misconduct.) There’s plenty of juiciness to go around with expanded story lines that touch on topical issues, recurring characters, and the chemistry between Dom and the entrepreneurial (but messy) Emmett.
Emmett persuades Dom to be the chef at his after-hours situation at Sonny’s Chicken pit, without the owner’s permission. Sensing the opportunity to secure the bag and get her food into more people’s mouths, Dom agrees.
Anthony says fans will relate to Dom’s go-getter spirit.
“I definitely want Dom to be relatable to the Chicago audience, but relatable to women who are trying to get businesses off the ground and be super independent. I want people to relate to that struggle of trying to do things the right way, because in that environment, it’s easy to make the wrong decision,” says the actress, whose interest in cooking has piqued since joining the cast.
Anthony didn’t have much downtime after ending her chapter as ride-or-die LaKeisha Grant on Power and then starting her gig on The Chi. But she was eager to jump into the role, especially since people had gotten used to seeing her on the small screen. The actress knew it was time to find a new mountain to climb and she ended up flexing her talent during an audition for Lena Waithe and her crew.
Anthony’s closest friends know that she loves a challenge. And she’s not about to take rejection to heart just because the person sitting across the table refuses to see the vision she has for herself. “I’ve been told no my whole life or why something isn’t going to work. They said, ‘You’re never going to go from radio personality to VJ.’ Okay, I did that. They said, ‘You’re never going to go from VJ to producer.’ Yeah, I did that. Then it was, ‘You’re definitely not going to go from producer to actor. I did that,” the actress says, smoothing her hair into a bun. “I love proving people wrong, but I also love proving to myself that I can do it. That’s what keeps me going.”
For the woman who has racked up acting credits on everything from Law & Order: SVU to Think Like a Man to The New Edition Story to Power, there’s more to life than adding dope projects to her résumé. These days folks expect their favorite celebrities to be vocal about issues. (So no, Laura Ingraham, folks won’t just shut up and dribble, rap, act or whatever. )
“I’m building a legacy that me and my family and my son can look back on and say, ‘Wow my mom was part of the Black Lives Matter movement.’ She was a part of these calls to action, a part of the protests, a part of using her platform,” says the actress, who’s developed a relationship with Breonna Taylor’s family. Taylor was the 26-year-old ER tech who was killed in her home by police in Louisville, Kentucky.
The mom of 13-year-old Kiyan says, “We weren’t blessed to be in these positions and not do anything with it. You don’t just throw up a hashtag and keep it moving.”
Taiia Smart Young (@taiiasmartyoung) is an award-winning author, editor and speaker. She lives in New York.