As a kid, there was one person that knew how to get “South Side” co-creator Bashir Salahuddin in trouble even when he was minding his own business: his older brother and co-star, Sultan.
“There was one part of our relationship that was the most contentious growing up,” Bashir told TheWrap in an interview. “If one kid got in trouble in the family, everyone is in trouble. I would be like ‘Sultan please, stop getting me in trouble. I got a whooping because of you!'”
“South Side” tells the story of two recent community college graduates Simon (Sultan) and K (Kareme Young) making ends meet at a Rent-A-Center-like store. The comedy is not only a snapshot of the hustle culture that makes up the backbone of the city, but also the underlying family bonds forged in Chicago households.
Tonight’s “Cold Cases” episode centers on a sibling showdown that puts those family bonds to the test. The episode focuses on snarky rent-a-center manager Q (Quincey Young) and ungrateful employee K, his twin brother. Q gets under K’s skin for leaving an unfinished cereal bowl in their living room. Enraged, Q challenges K to a “repo-off” to see who can retrieve as many overdue appliances as possible.
The episode was written with the twins’ and the Salahuddin’s’ clashes growing up in mind.
“Family can get under your skin in a way friends can’t,” Bashir said. “That’s someone who lives with you and knows exactly how to push your buttons.”
Bashir and Sultan were raised in the South Side of Chicago. All Bashir wanted to do as a kid was play sports, act and sing, while Sultan played baseball, ran cross country and “ran the streets, being wild.” When the kids would get punished for something Sultan did, Bashir would start what he calls “verbal jousting” with his brother.
What is “verbal jousting”?
In “Cold Cases,” K shows up with the bowl of cereal at work and begins taking Q’s “sloppy pig ass” to task. Q snaps back, telling K he needs to get to work on time — and that he’s about to take his attitude “south of 87th street.”
Bashir realizes not many viewers may know where 87th street even is, but the specificity of the threat raises the comedy of the situation, Bashir said.
“Verbal jousting is so important in the city,” Bashir said. “In that scene, you’re getting a sense you’re watching something authentic between the two.”
Bashir said the verbal jousting comes from having to raise your voice when you’re in a big family. When your brother gets in trouble and then gets you punished by your parents, you need to speak up and go “punch for punch” against whatever your brother says.
Sultan isn’t the only sibling of Bashir’s on “South Side.” Their sister Zuri is a series regular as a store employee, too. Bashir, who plays cop Officer Goodnight, is also bringing their brother Ismail for an appearance later on in the season, he said.
And let’s not forget about Bashir’s real-life wife Chandra Russell, who plays his character’s partner, Sergeant Turner.
“South Side” wasn’t always going to be in the family. Bashir said Comedy Central had Bashir and co-creator Diablo Riddle create a sizzle reel of what they wanted the show to be before the pilot. Even though Bashir said Comedy Central was receptive to the reel, “South Side” still auditioned 300 to 400 actors for roles on the show.
But “South Side” remained in-house, literally. Bashir knew Quincy from high school and Kareme is Quincy’s twin brother. And maybe that’s a good thing. Bashir said they often will banter with each other off-script and come up with something even funnier than what was on the page.
“Our show lives and dies on family,” Bashir said.
“South Side” airs on Comedy Central Wednesday’s at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.