How Jason Stuart & Mitch Hara Are Helping To Make the Entertainment Industry More Diverse and Representative

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
15 min readMay 24, 2023

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JASON: Learn to give back. Be of service to others. I had an assistant that would say, “Jason, why do u return all your calls and emails. I said, ”Because everybody wants to move up the ladder.” I will be making that same call today to an Oscar winning producer who I know, who I want to work with. And hopefully, he will return my call. Jack Lemmon said, when you go up the elevator of success, bring people with you.

As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jason Stuart and Mitch Hara.

When you think one of the most prolific character actors, who’s also an outrageous openly gay stand-up comedian, one name comes to mind…. Jason Stuart. As an actor he is best know for his major role as a slave owner in The Birth Of A Nation. Recently he won The Indie Series Award For Best Actor In a Comedy Series for his Amazon comedy series Smothered. Jason has also appeared in the award winning films Tangerine, Love Is Strange, Gia, Kindergarten Cop and Vegas Vacation. He has wowed TV audiences with guest roles on such shows as Goliath, Swedish Dicks, Love (Judd Apatow), Sleepy Hollow, Real Rob, Entourage, The Closer, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, House, Everybody Hates Chris, George Lopez, Will & Grace, Charmed and as “Dr. Thomas” on My Wife and Kids. As a stand up comic he just won the Worldwide Comedy Award for Best LGBTQ Comedian. And you have laughed with him on Gotham Comedy Live, Red Eye, One Night Stand Up, Wisecrack, Comics Unleashed and his own comedy special, Making It To The Middle. His new comedy album I’m The Daddy and I Have Candy and autobiography Shut Up, Im Talking! From CCB Publishing.

Mitch Hara was raised by speed-freak alcoholics which shaped his unique voice and eccentric view of the world.

He escaped to NYC at age 19, when he was invited to join the acclaimed Actors Studio. He did countless plays Off Broadway and hit the comedy clubs.
While pole dancing on 42nd street he was called to L.A. to do a burp-and-it-was-gone pilot, “Eddie Dodd,” with Treat Williams. He subsequently did numerous guest spots including recurring roles on “ER,” followed by four more pilots and wound up as staff writer on several Sitcoms.
The independent film world discovered his unique talent and he starred in “The Art of Dying” with Wings Hauser. His standout performance landed him starring roles in 11 more films. He’s played opposite — John Savage, Sally Kirland, Karen Black, Angela Landsbury, Paul Bartel, Shelly Winters, Al Pacino, Patrick Swayze, Susan Lucci, Doris Roberts, John Travolta — just to name drop a touch.

He’s written, directed and performed in three critically acclaimed plays. Mitch won Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Sister Coco Call-Me-Ishmael, a mental-patient-drag-queen-nun. He also directed Joe Manganiello in “One Night Stand.” Hara’s award-winning solo show MUTANT OLIVE is playing to sold out houses in Beverly Hills, NYC, Chicago, London with rave reviews.
Currently, Mitch is watching SMOTHERED go viral and pitching it as a 30-minute series. His original screenplay, IT WILL ALWAYS BE LUNCH (a gay Aunty Mame) is getting exciting buzz around town and he’s developing a new black comedy, STUCK, about a grief group.
Mitch says, “I never take “no” for an answer. For me, everything is YES. Even ‘no’ is a slow yes!”

His inner child is alive and well and ready to play!

“Smothered,” the hit short form series that took the world by storm in its debut season, is back for a highly anticipated second season. “Smothered” follows an entitled bickering boomer aged gay couple (Stuart & Hara) who, because they can’t afford to get a divorce, try and salvage their hideous relationship in therapy hell before they kill each other and everyone else. “Smothered,” directed by Carlyle King, and distributed by Revry, will be available on streaming channels including Revry, Amazon, Apple TV, DirecTV, Peacock, and more starting May 12, 2023.

Season 2 promises to be even more outrageous, and hilarious, than the first with new cast including Emmy winner Jai Rodriguez, ‘Married with Children’s’ Amanda Bearse and long list of talented guest stars such as Jasper Cole, Robert Costanzo, Vasilios Filippakis, Aida Rodriguez, Nicole Lynn Evans, Carole Ita White, and many more. With its unique blend of comedy and heart, “Smothered” is bound for the Emmys, and we can’t wait to see what this talented cast and crew have in store for us.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you both grew up?

MITCH: Thanks for having us! Well, we both were pretty much causalities of our childhood.

JASON: We were beat up physically and emotionally by our parents, peers

MITCH: — substitute teachers and the entire football team. We hadda be in the spot light for revenge.

JASON: My father was a holocaust survivor and my mother was a beautician.

MITCH: My parents were Speed-freak alcoholics. My father was in the Jewish mafia and punched the walls and my mother was polyamorous before it was popular.

JASON: A pivotal moment is when the guy I loved, Langford Singford socked me in the face and broke my Elton John glasses. It crushed me.

MITCH: I hated my childhood. So, I created an hour and a half award winning solo show called, MUTANT OLIVE.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

JASON: My mother was a movie star without a film and my dad was a king without a country. The only way to get any attention was to be an Actor & Comedian. Hence here I am today…please love me! Lol.

MITCH: And I came out of the womb, demanding attention. Just to make sure everyone had all eyes and hands on me, I came out feet first and took & 19 hours to pop out of my mother’s vagina. I always wanted actor or a magic spirit flying through the air. My father tried to crush my soul. But he was unsuccessful and I’m still here. Plus, I was a fat kid, and I found having a sense of humor dissuaded people from spitting on my head.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Jason: “They” didn’t destroy me.

Mitch: And I didn’t destroy myself with drugs and alcohol.

JASON: I got to work with George Clooney in a recurring role on an ABC show called “Sunset Beat“ on ABC. George played a police officer by day and a rockin’ roller by night. Produced by the same folks who created “21 JumpStreet”. I played “Marty” the nightclub owner. I memorize my lines perfectly and George sat me down and looked at me with his dreamy eyes and said, “Your funny we should Improv the scene.” That was the first time I realized that I could be creative if the star was involved. And then I fantasized that George would marry me!

MITCH: A fun story: I submitted myself for an indie movie and wrote a very flattering letter about myself from my fake agent. And when I got the audition, the director read the letter to me & I said, “Oh my god. I’m so flattered!!” He said, “I’m expecting a lot.” I said, “Well, I’m pretty sure you can stop seeing people.” He laughed & I got the part: A producer of Snuff-Films, Latin Jerry. Later, the director & I did coke off of someone’s ass.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

JASON: When I lost to Martin Lawrence on Star Search, I stamped my foot and walked off. At the time it was funny. Now with the woke social media I look like a mental patient.

MITCH: It’s a tossup between having sex with a few top casting agents, thinking I was gonna book a guest star. Which didn’t really work out the way I thought it would. I learned, a crucial lesson: You gotta have the contract on the night table. And, I thought Dexedrine and cocaine made me more charming. Apparently, it didn’t to anyone else.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

JASON: On July 1st I will be tapping a stand-up show with some other gay comedians called “Laugh Proud” from filmmaker Quentin Lee and I will be in the comedy “Garlic Parmesan” coming out this summer playing the owner of a improv group that’s not really funny! Sort of a “Napoleon Dominate” kinda film. Also I am celebrating 30s years of coming out on “Geraldo Rivera Show” as an out actor & comedian. Which I’m really proud of. I feel like I broke a bit of ground for others and now Mitch & I get to walk on it together! And FYI we are just friends and work partners and both single!

MITCH: I write a lot, so I have a few screenplays. “Can you hear me now” that’s getting a lot of buzz. It’s a gay “Aunty Mame” meets “Kramer vs Kramer” meets, “Rainman” about me and my amazing nephew who has Asperger‘s. I have another screenplay called, “Party Time” (about annoying angels, destiny and cancer.) that’s really one of my life concepts: that we’re all here to do something and if we don’t do it, we keep coming back till we do. Plus I’m making a an indie film out of my one-man show MUTANT OLIVE. I’m also pitching. OLIVE as a half hour series. And then, there’s always that possibility of SMOTHERED Season 3. If we don’t kill each other.

The first season of Smothered was a critical success. What can we expect from the new season of Smothered?

MITCH: You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll see God. Season 2 is 8 ten-minute episodes. We open the series up and our characters & added 25 guest stars. So, after unsuccessfully robbing a bank to get away from each other, Randy & Ralph wind up in the same cell so the other inmates don’t kill them in their sleep.

JASON: They’ve lost everything & have no choice but to share a tiny efficiency at the LGBTQA+ center in Hollywood. So today, Randy & Ralph still can’t stand each other, still can’t afford a divorce —

MITCH: — and it’s gonna take a lot more than the Jewish Mafia, murders, heavy meds, wacked-out shrinks and naked men to keep them from killing each other or everyone else.

JASON: The idea of a couple whether they are gay or not, is universal. We decided as artists that we will not wait for permission to create. We used a lot of our own experiences as friends. How we would fight and how we made it so funny!

MITCH: It’s funny, as the world evolves, Smothered Season 2 just becomes more relevant. A long-term couple who are disappointed with who they are and are kind of stuck and love each other and hate each other and wanna destroy each other and want to blame each other for everything that didn’t happen.

JASON: And, keep looking outside the relationship to make things better.

MITCH: Yeh. And when we pitch this to executives, “It’s about a hideous couple who can’t stand each other but can’t afford to get divorced.” They always go, “Like 90% of LA.” It’s very human. I mean, we make it funny as fu*k. Pain is funny and in season 2 me & Jason wanted to make sure there’s the flipside of the genius banter and you really see where their hearts live. Because the bottom line is, who would Randy & Ralph be if they were not reflected in each other’s eyes? Funny & touching, huh?

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

JASON: Learn your craft. And as Mitch and I have said, “Don’t wait for permission to create”. Take risks and know there is no perfect way to make art. Listen to others you respect and work with talented people.

MITCH: Make your own stuff. Make mistakes. Learn. Don’t worry about what anybody else thinks about what you’re doing. Keep creating and while the low vibrating peeps are trying to decide if they like it? Make more sh*t. If i had worry about what anyone watching me, thinks of what I’m doing, I’d never do anything. It’s freeing not to give a rat’s ass. Jason’s more open to everyone’s input. But, If i don’t ask for your idea, you can be sure; I don’t want it. So few people know how to hold your baby. And when they drop it on its head it’ll be your fault. Hell, no.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

For us it’s simple. We cast the way we want to see the world. Representation is everything. When little kids see themselves on TV or Film they can go, “I could be that beautiful lawyer. I can be that trans Senator. I can be that (fill in the ethnic blank) President!! Without seeing yourself portrayed in the world and media, we don’t exist. Me & Jason insist on casting for talent, not gender or ethnicity. Season 1 is a celebration of diversity, Little People, Transsexuals, Asians, Blacks, Whites, Jews, Closet Cases & a Fluid Dog. Season 2 continues with our diverse casting choices. We got blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans, Gays, Straights, Them, Theirs, Those, Disabled, Asian, Drag Queens, Alchies & mothers and fathers. The fluid dog didn’t make it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

JASON: 1) Don’t sweat the small stuff. 2) to quote Cher “if it doesn’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter at all”. 3) I live by this Viola Davis “my dreams had to be bigger than my fear. 4) Forgive your parents their just people try their best raise you. When you over 30 you have to forever them unless they beat you with a tire iron. 5) and lastly, never, ever get a perm.

MITCH: You are not broken. Everything that happened to you, how you survived is your supper power. You are more than enough. You are magic. Being different and unique is beautiful. You will touch people with your heart and humor. All your demons will be your guides to brilliant material. The way I was brought up everything was about the outer shell. You could be dying of terminal cancer, but if you had on a Izod shirt the world is bright. (i can’t count)

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

JASON: Go to where the love is. Show u in life. Don’t expect to be discovered at a soda fountain in Hollywood on your phone frisking a milk shake lol. Watch great artists work and go to films, watch TV and go to the theatre in person! Don’t just memorize you line and hope for the best with an attitude. Work on the part and be specific. Fall in love with the work. Fall in love with the business. Don’t forget to breathe and listen.

MITCH: I know this sounds cliché, but love the process. Love the discovery. Stay curious, like a child. If you don’t take care of your inner child, it will kill your adult. Have things that bring you joy on the daily. Do something for your career every day. Make one call. Go ride your bike for the endorphins to keep you happy. Write a scene. Write a gratitude list. You are special. People want to hear and see your authentic self. And then, give yourself permission to do NOTHING. Love the nothing. While I was rehearsing for my one man show, I just didn’t wanna rehearse for 4 days and I said, cool, don’t. And I allowed myself to just release everything that didn’t support me and then I was clean and ready to fly.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

JASON: When I was a kid, I would go the movies, sit in the theater in the dark watch a film, and learn about somebody or something else that I had no idea about, and my life would change. I would see things from a completely different point of view. That was my college education. I want folks to watch the artistry that Mitch & I have created and move them in the same way. To learn to get an understanding of someone else’s experience that’s different than your own. Through entertainment, we can teach, share, and make people feel less alone.

MITCH: As an artist, I want to move people. I want to disturb people. I want to make people think. I want to make people laugh their ass off. I want to make them cry, ugly crying. I also want to give people permission to be more of themselves. I love to walk a tight rope when I create, where the possibility of falling and crashing and bombing is just as strong as being genius. I’m always willing to take that risk. As a movement, I’d love to give children the power and confidence to claim their dreams. Honor their voices. Have “poetry slams” for children. Where once a week everyone in class gets to tell a personal story in front of the class and everyone gets an A for doing it. Everyone is celebrated and is a star for 3 minutes. And the whole class applauds for everyone.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

JASON: Learn to give back. Be of service to others. I had an assistant that would say, “Jason, why do u return all your calls and emails. I said, ”Because everybody wants to move up the ladder.” I will be making that same call today to an Oscar winning producer who I know, who I want to work with. And hopefully, he will return my call. Jack Lemmon said, when you go up the elevator of success, bring people with you.

MITCH: Lee Strasberg, Milton Katselas, Marylin Carney all saw my uniqueness and nurtured it. When I auditioned for the Actors Studio in NYC, I had no idea that people took 5 years to get in. I just walked in there in front of Strasberg, Ellen Bernstein & some other stars, did a monologue from “Catcher in the Rye,” laughed and cried and got up and started to leave. Strasberg called out, “Mitch! Where you going?” I was like, “I’m done. I’m leaving.” He said, “We’d like to invite you to be a member.” I said, “Oh coo.” Then in LA, Katselas pushed me to use every part of myself. He celebrated my authenticity and made me use my own perception of material and character. He insisted on 100% Mitch. They all gave me permission to be myself. Jason is great at teaching. I think my gift is inspiring people by my creations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

JASON: When people show who they are. Believe them the first time! My Dad Always said in A Polish accent. “When you do to the interview wear a tie, show them you mean business”. I took that to mean be you best person. Become indispensable… and this what I strive to be.

MITCH: Everything you have gone through and survived is inspiration for someone else. I’ve used every ugly, confusing, hateful thing that’s ever happened to me and turned it into material. I parade my challenges & how I thrived in everything I create. I throw all my sh*t on stage, in film and in this interview. 😉 The universe celebrates action. Nobody’s coming to my door, screaming, “MITCH! We’ve been looking for you! Brad Pitt wants you to star in his next film ‘Oceans 17’.”

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

JASON: I think I would love to meet with Judy Dench again. I meet her once at a screening of a film she was starring in. She spoke to me as though we were old friends. She talked about fear and how it made her life as an actor uncomfortable. It made me feel like I was a pier and then she said “ they are just feelings not facts”. That changed my life in a big way.

MITCH: Viola Davis. I love her talent and inspiring journey, Steven Soderbergh (genius visionary), ANANOFSKY (what a cool eye), Damien Chazelle (young and genius), Martin Scorsese, (because his life would be fuller if he experienced me) Quentin Tarantino (we’d appreciate each other’s vibe) The richest man/woman in the world that wants to finance all my art.

How can our readers follow you online?

All our social media is on our websites and you can watch SMOTHERED on all platforms from Revry, Amazon to Apple TV to Peacock by going to…

SmotheredTV.com

JasonStuart.com

MitchHara.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator