Calvin Palmer

Calvin Palmer

Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Living... on the south side of Chicago, with his pregnant wife. Struggling through mounting debt, Calvin dreams of becoming wealthy and buying a house the size of Oprah’s guesthouse for his growing family. However, he finds that his barbershop is increasingly becoming more of a hindrance than an asset in achieving this goal.

Profession... owner of a barbershop that has been in his family for three generations. Despite the longevity of the barbershop, the business faces foreclosure due to questionable management (i.e. giving out free haircuts) by both Calvin and his father. Unable to secure a loan, Calvin finds himself relying on get-rich-quick schemes – or “ventures” as he prefers to call them ­– in order to keep the store and his family afloat. And when Lester Wallace, the resident loan shark, makes him an offer he can’t refuse, Calvin is tempted to give up his father’s barbershop and legacy.

Interests... bettering himself through entrepreneurism and community engagement. Although he recognizes his father’s barbershop as a community space where people gather to share their time (and gossip), Calvin’s financial woes cause him to resent the barbershop for what it’s costing him and seek other money-making opportunities. However, as Calvin discovers when given the choice to sell the barbershop, the price of ridding himself of his financial burden may come at too high a personal cost.

Relationship Status... married. Calvin’s wife, Jennifer, offers him unconditional support along with sage advice as he juggles the pressure of financial strain and impending fatherhood.

Challenge... stepping out of his father’s shadow and forging his own legacy. When he exasperatedly asks the shop’s patrons, “Do I look like my father?” Calvin is immediately met with many affirmations, to his irritation. Despite his efforts to run the shop more rigidly, it’s clear that Calvin can’t help but follow in his father’s footsteps. Notably, just like his father who was “rich because he invested in people,” Calvin hires his own motley crew of barbers. They include Ricky, a two-time felon; Terri, a woman with anger management issues; Isaac, a white barber who has trouble securing customers in the predominantly black neighborhood; and Eddie, an elderly man and barbershop staple who contributes more opinions than haircuts. Even so, in this Calvin only sees the dire consequences of misplaced faith. As he puts it, “My father died broke and frustrated trying to help everybody in this neighborhood.”

Personality... determined but discouraged, at least lately. Calvin’s increasing ambition regarding his “ventures” certainly stems from his irritation at his declining financial situation, as he watches his shop suffer in the flailing neighborhood. Although he is torn between wanting to make money off selling the shop or keep it for its significance in the community, when someone skips out on paying the bill for his haircut, Calvin just can’t help but sigh: “That's why you can't have no business in the ghetto.”


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