An upcoming episode of NCIS: Hawai’i will pay tribute to Yakira Chambers, story editor for the CBS drama who died suddenly last week at the age of 42.
Chambers’ family tells Deadline the preliminary cause of death has been attributed to acute asphyxia. She was with her mother outside a mall in Newport Beach, Calif. on Wednesday evening when she began suffering breathing difficulties and then collapsed.
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Chambers was promoted to story editor for Season 2 of NCIS: Hawai’i after joining the show as a staff writer in the NCIS spinoff’s debut season, penning four episodes. She earned the staff writing position following her selection as a mentee in the highly competitive ViacomCBS Writers Mentoring Program in 2020-2021.
The tribute to her will appear in an episode of the show in January, airing the week after a three-hour NCIS universe crossover event scheduled for January 2.
Chambers’ acting credits include HBO’s Insecure; Saban Films’ John Henry (with Terry Crews); the comedy short series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (with Issa Rae); and the comedy series M.O. Diaries, co-written by Lena Waithe, in which she played Michelle Obama.
In addition to her work on NCIS: Hawai’i, Chambers was developing several of her own projects including a TV pilot she wrote on imprisoned gang leader-turned-author and community services advocate Larry Hoover, and Myseducation, a TV pilot “about her own experiences growing up on the Southside [of Chicago] and attending a majority-white high school.”
Chambers was born in Chicago and graduated at the top of her class from the city’s Lindblom Math and Science Academy High School, according to information provided by her family. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree, with special emphasis in information management systems, from Southern Illinois University and later worked as a software quality assurance manager in St. Louis. She obtained her Master’s in business administration from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville but, drawn to a career in the entertainment industry, she relocated to Los Angeles.
In L.A., she completed a two-year Meisner acting intensive program at the Joanne D. Baron/D.W. Brown Studio. Chambers also attended the prestigious Midsummer in Oxford Programme of the British American Drama Academy; alums of the program include Ruth Negga, Paul Giamatti, Tracie Thoms and the late Chadwick Boseman.
Chambers’ first acting credits came in the 2007 feature films Eye See Me, directed by Carlton Enoch, and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, directed by Dennis Dugan and starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James. She was a member of both SAG-AFTRA and the WGA.
Chambers is survived by her husband, Anthony Welch, stepson André Welch, and her mother, Constance Chambers. Her family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to cover funeral and other expenses. A memorial service is being planned for Chambers, with a date to be announced.
Her family said of Chambers, “Her sudden and untimely death has left us all grief-stricken. Yakira was a light, a symbol of hope to our community, a steward of our culture, and a representation of what pursuing your dreams looks like.” The family added, “Yakira’s passion extended beyond her daily work in the business; she loved helping others create a way out of no way. She believed in equity, and the demarginalization of persons of color to create a level playing field for all. This passion was actualized in the form of her foundation, CureConstanceFoundation, an organization born out of the necessity for finding financial options for those in health crisis.”
Constance Chambers, Yakira’s mother, tells Deadline, “I miss her and will love her to eternity. I don’t know what I will do without her.”