Actress, The Chi
What She Does
When Birgundi Baker moved to Chicago to pursue a career in acting, she had no idea she’d end up starring in one of cable TV’s most popular series. “I have never wanted to be anything other than an artist,” says Birgundi. “[Going into the third season of The Chi] is special because I get to use my storyline to advocate for women and girls” while playing teen track star Kiesha Williams.
Now that film studios are starting to open up again, we asked Birgundi how she gets ready for a day on set. (Hint: avocado toast, dance parties, and lying on the floor.)
How does your day start?
On a normal day, I am up by 7:15 A.M. I shower and pack my bag the night before, so I only need 15 minutes to get ready: five minutes to pray, five minutes to wash my face and brush my teeth, and five minutes to throw on whatever’s clean. Then I head outside to hop in The Chi van.
What’s the first thing you do when you get to work?
I get avocado toast, fresh fruit, potatoes, Tazo Passion Herbal Tea, water, and orange juice. (Something about the orange juice wakes me up!)… While I wait for food, I stretch my whole body, from my jaws to my toes.
Then comes the fun part! By 8:30, I am either in the makeup chair or the hair chair. Some days, the makeup is glam and takes forever. Other days, I just get ChapStick and [fake] bruises added. Every day, the art department covers my personal tattoos and adds on my character’s tattoo.
How do you prepare for your scenes?
If the scenes for the day are heavy, I’ll run lines with my fellow actors. If the workload is lighter, you can catch me dancing and laughing with the rest of the cast and hair and makeup crew. The hair and makeup trailer is one of the loudest, most loving places on the set of The Chi. But if you need peace and focus, that is always understood.
Do you have any tricks or routines for getting into character?
Once my hair and makeup is done, I get dressed as quickly as possible. Now that I am in the hair, makeup, and clothes of Kiesha, I really feel her. I like to turn up the heat in my trailer to keep my blood warm and lie on the floor. I’ll close my eyes and think about what Kiesha has been through, and what she will go through that day. I connect with my character through meditation, imagination, and breath. It’s important I do this now, because the rest of the day will be fast and hectic. There will be no other time to mentally or emotionally prepare. As an actor, this time alone is what makes my day successful.
Do you set a timer or just, like, know when to head to set?
Someone will knock on my door and say, “They’re ready for ya!” Then I get in the van and go to map out the [movement of the scene] with the director. We will do it over and over for the camera crew, so we can all be on the same page for the shoot. [When we run through the scene], we are performing at a fast pace, but just as efficiently as we would when the camera comes on.
What’s the last thing you do before filming?
We do final touches on makeup and hide microphones under our costumes… when those mics are on, you know it’s time for business. By 11 A.M., I am fully in it! Bells are ringing and directors are yelling, “Action!”