‘Chi-Raq’ Star Angela Bassett on Chicago Gun Violence: ‘It’s Shameful’ (Video)

“He’s trying to just bring some awareness… It’s a good picture,” Bassett tells TheWrap about director Spike Lee’s new joint

Last Updated: December 7, 2015 @ 10:34 AM

Spike Lee‘s controversial film “Chi-Raq” is set to arrive in theaters just as Chicago makes headlines for another horrifying shooting.

“Chi-Raq,” a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes, is set against the backdrop of soaring gang violence in Chicago. The Amazon Studios release debuts on Dec. 4 in select theaters, and will then be available on Amazon Instant Video shortly thereafter.

Lee’s satirical take on gun violence stars John Cusack, Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson and Angela Bassett.

In a recent sit-down with TheWrap, Bassett expressed her outrage over the bloodshed in Chicago.

“It’s shameful, completely and utterly wasteful, shameful, hurtful to the core,” she said.

The actress’ comments come as the city is thrust into the spotlight once again.

On Tuesday, protesters took to the streets after city leaders released a chilling dash-cam video showing a police officer firing 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The fatal shooting happened on Oct. 20, 2014, but the footage was not made public until a judge ordered it released. It showed a white police officer continuing to fire on the black teen even as he lay slumped on the ground.

The release of the footage came less than a month after 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was assassinated on the city’s South Side. Police said the fourth grader was lured into an alley and shot multiple times on Nov. 2, as he walked to a local park to play basketball. The little boy was apparently targeted because of his father’s alleged association with a local gang.

As of this week, 2,703 people have been shot in the city and 440 have died so far this year, according to the Chicago Tribune. That is far higher than the number of homicides in New York and Los Angeles, which have larger populations.

Lee and the team behind “Chi-Raq” have faced criticism from Chicago city leaders for the film’s title. But Bassett said rather than trying to make the city look bad, the director, who recently received an honorary Academy Award, is trying to make a difference.

“He’s trying to just bring some awareness… It’s a good picture, it’s very positive,” she explained.

“I wasn’t familiar with the name ‘Chi-Raq’ as a nickname for Chicago based on what’s been going on in the community with young black men, children… innocent bystanders dying because of gang violence, and the nickname ‘Chi-Raq’ coming from more black folks dying than in the Iraq war,” Bassett said.

She went on to explain that the politicians’ criticism may be rooted in embarrassment over what is happening in their city.

“Sometimes you don’t want those outside the family to know that’s what’s going on, but it’s something that needs to be known,” she said. “When you get down to it, Spike loves his community. He loves filmmaking, so it’s going to be a positive thing. It’s for the good.”

Watch the video of Bassett’s interview above.