From acting in big-budget fare like Top Gun: Maverick to creating and starring in TV series like IFC’s Sherman’s Showcase and Chicago-set comedy South Side, Windy City native Bashir Salahuddin is living the Hollywood dream—and name-checking his hometown all the way.
South Shore native Bashir Salahuddin is making his mark in the entertainment industry.
From Bashir Salahuddin’s career so far, you would think breaking into the entertainment biz was a piece of cake. The South Shore native and Harvard grad’s first gig was as a writer for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and his résumé has only gotten more impressive since then, from roles alongside Tom Cruise in recent blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick and Peter Dinklage in Cyrano to creating TV series like Chicago-set HBO Max comedy South Side, a love letter to his old stomping grounds, whose second season is set to drop in December. As Salahuddin readies for this month’s second-season debut of his other show, award-winning IFC sketch series Sherman’s Showcase, the multitalented creative talks about finding inspiration in Chicago and reveals why the theatrical stage is calling his name.
How did growing up in Chicago help prepare you for a career in Hollywood?
Chicago is a town inundated with the arts. We have great museums, music festivals and theaters, [so] I first began my love affair with the arts right here at home. This city also afforded me a certain amount of toughness that has been crucial to surviving Hollywood. It’s a brutal business with constantly shifting alliances. Projects you care about get shelved or killed at a moment’s notice, and as an actor, it’s hard to get used to hearing ‘no.’ So being from here, a place that helped me develop some armor for the world, has made a huge difference.
What makes the South Side such an inspiring place for you?
The people—they are radiant and smart and fun and resilient and funny and so many other things. Most of our writers are from Chicago, and many specifically from the South Side, so they bring all that to the table and write characters they grew up with. I love that people from my hometown entertain the world.
What do you miss most about Chicago when you’re away?
I miss the vibe. I enjoy how Chicago people are. They’re down home and straight to the point. Kind when necessary but happy to ‘keep it real’ when needed. Los Angeles is not like that. This place is home and always will be.
What are your go-to spots when you’re in town?
No. 1 is Italian Fiesta pizza: It’s greasy and delicious and you just kinda have to grow up on it [like I did]. I also love Harold’s Chicken Shack, Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s. I’ve been to Alinea and it’s not to be missed, but most of the stuff I frequent is the mom-and-pop places.
What’s your idea of a dream career?
I am incredibly blessed to be having the career I always wanted. I get to do TV and film, write, act and direct. I’m like a full-service member of the entertainment industry. The only part of my career I’m eager to build out is my stage presence: I grew up going to the Goodman Theatre and the ETA [Creative Arts Foundation] on the South Side, and the first play I ever did was on the Whitney Young High School stage. I adore being in plays and musicals but haven’t been able yet to make that part of my work… but I hope to.
Photography by: PHOTO BY BRIAN SORG/BRIANSORGFOTO.COM