NEW FACES

Chanté Adams Won’t Be Slowing Down Anytime Soon

The A League of Their Own star reflects on playing the queer, Black baseball player the original film was missing.

by Brooke LaMantia

Photograph by Dalvin Adams

When Chanté Adams received an audition for the new series A League of Their Own, she was hesitant to take it. She had watched the original 1992 film of the same name, which featured only one Black actress on screen for fewer than thirty seconds. “We see this Black woman catch a foul ball and throw it to Geena Davis’s character, giving her the, You’re doing the damn thing nod,” Adams says. But when she read the script for the series, which releases on Amazon Prime today, she realized this would be no pedestrian remake—but rather, a way to dive into the stories the original film didn’t explore. Instead, the series, co-created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, would feature the queer and Black history happening at the time the film was set. “As an actor, these are the kind of roles I want—the really juicy and complex and complicated roles,” says the 27-year-old actress.

In A League of Their Own, Adams plays Max Chapman, a diehard baseball lover who’s turned away when trying out for the women’s baseball league in the very first episode. “Black women did not have the same experience of being in the All-American League because they were not allowed to be,” Adams explains. “Our show is based on a historical time period and we’re talking about the generation of women in baseball.” Her character largely remains separate from the rest of the female players—a representation of the time period—aside from a friendship built with Jacobson’s character, Carson Shaw. When Adams got the role, only the first episode had been written, so she had the opportunity to really direct Max as a character Although her journey remains separate from the Rockford Peaches, Max is fully fleshed out in terms of her personhood. “Max’s biggest arc is finding who she is, at the end of the day, and who she wants to be for herself,” says Adams.

It’s a journey the actress herself has embarked on for years. Adams knew she wanted to pursue acting during her sophomore year of high school, when the theater program put on the musical Rent. “I was playing Mimi and it was the first moment I’ve ever felt so emotionally connected to a character that I broke down in tears,” she says. “All I remember was that I felt like it was an out-of-body experience. It was some type of artistic high and I was like, I want more.” The summer before senior year, Adams’s drama teacher sent her to a program at Carnegie Mellon University. At the program’s end, the packet students received containing information on college applications came to Adams with an admission letter for the freshman class at CMU the following year.

Born and raised in Detroit, Adams says she has always felt like the art scene in The Motor City contributed significantly to her personality and cultural leanings (and she’s still tied to her hometown to this day). As a self-declared theater kid, she always knew her goal was to end up on Broadway. But her film career took off right out of college, when she snagged the leading part in the 2017 biopic Roxanne Roxanne, which earned her a Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance at Sundance. She followed that up with The Photograph and A Journal for Jordan, working opposite LaKeith Stanfield, Issa Rae, and Michael B. Jordan. But dreams of appearing onstage in a play still lingered— and Adams knew she wanted it to be the right play. “Lo and behold, in the middle of the pandemic, I see an article—Dominique Morisseau, who wrote Skeleton Crew and graduated from my high school, a Detroit native—her play is going to Broadway. I know the play very well and there’s a part for me in it,” Adams says. “I immediately sent it to my whole team and was like, We’re doing this. I don’t care how many auditions they need, I want this.

Chanté Adams in A League of Their Own.

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The production, which follows the lives of four auto workers during the 2008 recession in Detroit, hit especially close to home: Adams’s parents were the first people in her family to seek employment that didn’t involve making cars, and she could recall that specific time intimately and personally. It was a full-circle moment to ring in her Broadway debut—and a wonderful opportunity to work alongside people she’s looked up to since she was young. “When I’m choosing roles, I’m looking at who I get to work with,” she says. “I got to work with Phylicia Rashad—to be in a room with her, and to be able to study under her every day and watch her… it was like getting paid to take a master class. That was just such a monumental moment in my career.”

While Adams is still ticking off the boxes when it comes to career goals, there are a wealth of spaces she’d like to take up within the wider industry. It’s my dream to produce,” she says, her signature big smile spreading across her face. “I want to do it with the intention of discovering young and unknown voices, because that's the way I came onto the scene. They could have easily cast a name in Roxanne Roxanne, but they chose me.”