When Chanté Adams got the initial email about a potential role in the new “A League of Their Own” series, she admits to being confused.
“I know it’s the time of the remakes and everything, but I remember ‘A League of Their Own’ — who doesn’t? — and I didn’t remember seeing women who look like me,” Adams says over a Zoom call. “So I was like ‘Is this supposed to be the diversity hire? What’s going on here?’ And I read the script and saw that it was not a remake but far from it, and I was like, ‘OK, not only are we telling the beloved story of the Peaches but we’re also diving deeper and expanding the storyline and the voices of the show, and we’re including a Black woman this time?’ And I was like, ‘oh hell yeah, I’m in.’”
Adams plays Maxine, who attempts to try out for the Peaches but is denied because she is Black. Maxine, however, doesn’t take no for an answer, and is confident in both her athletic abilities as well as the fact that she’s deserving of being on the team.
“It never crossed my mind that a woman like that existed: a Black woman, in that time period, who was also queer and an athlete,” Adams says. “I couldn’t even imagine or think about it. And anytime that a character is presented to me in that way I want to do it. I’m always ready to do stuff like that.”
Adams, born and raised in Detroit, grew up in a big sports family (though they were more of a basketball/football household rather than baseball), and didn’t try her hand at acting until her freshman year of high school. A friend was auditioning for a play and Adams didn’t want to be left alone, so she tagged along. The drama teacher told her that if she was going to wait there she had to audition as well. The next day, her name was on a cast list.
“But I say that it was fate, because my parents met at a play. Acting and theater is the whole reason why I literally exist. My mom is not an actor but my uncle was, and he brought her along [to a show] and my dad was the musician director of that play,” she says.
After graduating from Carnegie Mellon’s drama school, she moved to New York and within months landed the starring role of rapper Roxanne Shanté in “Roxanne, Roxanne,” which won her the Sundance Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Performance for her portrayal.
“I was in the mental space of ‘I just graduated from college, the goal this year is to book a commercial.’ Literally, I wanted to be ‘girl number three’ on ‘SVU,’” Adams says of her rapid success. “I don’t know, God had other plans. Four weeks later, I was the lead in a film.”
Since then she’s appeared opposite Michael B. Jordan in the Denzel Washington-directed “A Journal for Jordan,” and made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award nominated play “Skeleton Crew.”
“A League of Their Own” involved acting skills as well as, obviously, baseball, and the actors were sent to a baseball camp upon their casting.
“We started baseball camp right before we shot the pilot: me, Abbi and D’Arcy. It was the three of us and as people were cast they came to camp with us. We did a camp before the pilot and then a camp again before we shot the series,” she says. Professional female baseball players were brought in to train them, and they would play daily games, actors versus professionals. They got just a smidge invested.
“At one point we forgot we were making a show,” Adams says, “and we weren’t a baseball team.”