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Chanté Adams Is Redefining A League of Their Own

Photo: Dalvin Adams

For Chanté Adams, starring in a retelling of the 1992 baseball classic A League of Their Own was not the most obvious career move. The original film, starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis, was, to put it mildly, very white. “I got the audition, and to be honest, I was a little hesitant at first,” Adams, who describes her career choices as “very intentional,” tells the Cut. “I remember not seeing women that look like me in the film,” she says, but her hesitancy was assuaged when she read the series’ script, which brings Black and LGBTQ characters to the forefront.

In the show, Adams plays Max Chapman, a young Black woman who dreams of playing in the major leagues. This character never appears in the original film, which mostly excludes Black women from the narrative as a reflection on the segregation of the 1940s period setting. But in this reimagining, Max is a lead character, her story running parallel to that of showrunner Abbi Jacobson’s Carson Shaw and the Rockford Peaches. It’s this new approach that got Adams to give the show another look. “What I’m passionate about, as an artist, is to be able to tell stories that we haven’t really heard before, especially when it comes to Black women.” Learning that her character is based on three women who played in the Negro Leagues at the time — Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson, and Connie Morgan — also didn’t hurt. “That’s what I love to do: make sure we are highlighting and telling the stories of our Black ancestors and bringing their journeys and their stories to the forefront.”

Max has been a pitcher for her entire life. Had you ever pitched before taking on the role?

I’d never played baseball, but we had to fake-throw in the audition. I YouTubed “How to pitch a baseball” right before I went in. And I’m a dancer, so I know choreography. When I was practicing at home, I was throwing it like a football. But in the audition, I actually mimicked the YouTube video so well that they asked, “Wow, did you play baseball?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course!” I went into very intense pitching training in order to prepare for the role.

What was the training like?

When we started, only me, Abbi, and D’Arcy Carden were cast, so it was just us and Justine Siegal, our baseball coach. At this time, they still thought I could play baseball and asked us to play catch. Abbi and D’Arcy are going for it, and immediately the ball just hits me in the face. By the end of that day, Justine said, “We’re just going to work with stuffed animals with you for the first week. No baseballs. I want you to go home, and I want your friend to just throw stuffed animals at you. Your job is just to try to catch them.” So, that’s how baseball camp went. I eventually graduated to baseballs. Put that in the article — I don’t pitch stuffed animals anymore.

Max represents so many different identities audiences can relate to — she’s a Black queer woman playing a man’s sport. Was that daunting to play?

No, it wasn’t really daunting to take on. That’s what excites me about my career. Max is fighting a war on three different fronts. She’s Black, she’s queer, and she’s a woman. As an actor dealing with all of those struggles while in a white, male-dominated society, that’s also what I’m trying to do. Let’s dive in deep, let’s peel back the layers, let’s really get into it. Max allowed me to do that because she’s so beautifully complicated. She’s written in such a rich and juicy way. It was challenging for sure, but exciting.

There are so many ways Max could be written as a tragic character, but in the end, hers is a joyful journey —

And it was very purposeful and intentional to go about it that way. I think Black and queer people are often reduced to their trauma. That’s all people are looking for, especially in stories set during the 1940s. But it was important for us to highlight what it is to have Black joy, especially in this period, and to see all these different forms of Black love.

There’s a clear effort in the show to put the white women and the women of color on equal footing. To that end, did you have input regarding your character’s arc?

This was the most inclusive show I’ve ever worked on. I’ve never had producers call me and ask for my input on the character, or ask me about where I think the character should go. I’m not a writer, but they asked me to come into the writers’ room so that they could show me where they were with the character and ask for my input. If there was something that I didn’t like or something that I thought we could expand on more, they encouraged me to use my voice throughout the whole experience.

Was there anything you added to the character that you’re most proud of?

What I’m most proud of doesn’t revolve around my character; it actually revolves around my character’s father. In one of my initial meetings with the co-showrunners, Will Graham and Abbi, I brought up the fact that I had a queer uncle who was a Black gay man in the 1940s. He was my grandmother’s brother, and he was estranged from our family. We did not know him at all. I’d never met him. Because of the lifestyle that he lived — and he was an openly gay man — he moved to San Francisco, and he didn’t really have a lot of contact with the family. His name was Edgar, and as a way to honor him, they renamed Max’s father Edgar. And it was really special. It means a lot to my family that we get to honor his legacy in some way.

Chanté Adams Is Redefining A League of Their Own