“I think it would be great for the best actor and the funniest comedian to get the job. But I think that’s a fantasy as we are in a world that is all about a certain kind of beauty and look. I would hope that we could cast people who are talented and have craft in addition to a body of work not on just on race and sexual orientation. I know so many talented people who have not been given opportunities. My hope is that the artists who are not the usual types will get to work and have the good luck to step up to the plate … and their dreams will also get to come true.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing JASON STUART who has gained fame for his major supporting role as the villain in “The Birth Of A Nation” and his work ground breaking stand up comedy career as an openly gay comedian. He will be seen in the new comedy series SWEDISH DICKS starring PETER STROMARE and opposite KEANU REEVES on Aug 9th. He has several films coming out in this year including IMMORTAL with SAMM LEVINE & DYLAN BAKER and the action thriller DIVERTED EDEN. And catch his stand up live & in person July 21–22 at the PORTLAND QUEER COMEDY FESTIVAL and at THE LAUGH FACTORY his home club in Los Angeles, Ca. His short film that he starred in and directed, LIKE FATHER will be in the LOVE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL July 25th and the pilot he appears in at OUTFEST July 16th in program named EPISODES Night. And STUART says “I’m just getting started!”
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
I started acting when I was 8 or 9 performing in a PURIM PLAY at my Jewish temple. I played a “Slave Boy” and ripped up my mom’s sheet’s for a costume and to this day, his mother reminds me of that! I started studying acting with some of the great acting coaches of the day to name a few…. Nina Foch, Roy London, Harvey Lembeck to Howard Fine, Ivana Chubbuck and Larry Moss. I could not get arrested as an actor in thought days. I started doing stand up comedy and that brought me to a small role in KINDERGARTEN COP starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and VEGAS VACATION. I felt like I did have a voice as a stand up comedy being in the closet the first 10 years of my career. So I came out on the GERALDO SHOW in 1993 and my whole career changed. I became one of the top gay touring comedians and headlined all the” A” comedy clubs from from FUNNY BONES to IMPROV COMEDY CLUBS and then my taped my own stand up special MAKING IT TO THE MIDDLE. After, I started to work on all these sitcoms from DREW CAREY SHOW, WILL & GRACE to name a few and my recurring role on MY WIFE & KIDS starring Damon Wayans playing the gay family therapist as “Dr. Thomas”. That lead to doing tons of indie films with major supporting roles like COFFEE DATE, A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN and PUFF PUFF PASS. Then a guest-starring role on THE CLOSER as an annoying manager of a storage unit gave me permission to play straight roles and brought to me to some of the most successful film of my career LOVE IS STRANGE and TANGERINE, the film that was shot on a iPhone. Ths eventually led to a career defining role in THE BIRTH OF A NATION as slave owner “Joseph Randall”.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
When I was on STAR SEARCH in the 1985–86 season, I won one episode and lost another. I was up against a new up and coming comedian named MARTIN LAWRENCE, you might of heard of lol. On the show when a comedian would lose they would politely shake the hand of the other comic. I thought it would be funny to stamp my foot and walk off in a huff and do the opposite. Well at the time, it was very funny and people thought I was bold and edgy.
When it went to the internet years later on YOU TUBE people didn’t get the joke and really made fun of me!
What would you advise to someone who wants to emulate your career?
To work your craft and find a way to get on set and see if you really like the acting and not just want to be a star. Most people want to be in showbiz but they only see what happens in front of the camera. Sometimes they might be suited to be behind the camera and have a really wonderful career.
If you want to act you need to get really good. Get a great acting coach and a good therapist. You need to also understand the art as well as you do the business. When I get done working on a film or TV show as an artist I see how I can support the filmmakers so the film is a success. Be a team player and know your place in the food chain.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Nate Parker. He choose me to play a supporting role in his passion project THE BIRTH OF A NATION. He gave me the chance to play a role most people would not let me. When I was doing press for the film the journalist Thom Senese asked me if he could get a quote from Nate. I said “Most likely not, as he’s so busy with doing his own press and would not have the time”. Then Nate shocked me and he wrote this…
“It was really all about his incredible work in the audition room. I wanted to stray away from the traditional sociopathic slave owner and instead present a character who had more relatable qualities — qualities some could almost perceive as ‘likable’. This would create in the audience member a more complex journey as they grappled with the systemic effects of this period of American history. Jason walked in with an understanding of this vision. He brought a confidence, humility and humor to the role in a way that helped achieve a much needed balance across the characters and overall narrative. His onset instincts further validated his hiring, as he constantly pursued brave choices that aided in expanding the breadth of his character.”
This made a deep impression on me as an artist and gave me the confidence to move past the harder times in my career. By taking this time to write these words it gave me the strength to keep moving forward in my career.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Are you working on any meaningful or exciting non profit projects?
I believe in paying it forward. I have been so very lucky in my career. I think it’s important to give back. I have mentored several people in show business and continue to do so for the last 13 years. I am also currently the National Co Chair of the SAG AFTRA LGBT committee and created it with Duncan Crabtree Ireland in 2005. I am a member or the ROAR RESISTANCE group to make America a better place. I have fed the homeless over the holidays with the LAUGH FACTORY, in Los Angeles for the last 20 years or show. I also fed the homeless by giving money to the group SAVE THE CHILDREN which gives the children an oatmeal that has all the vitamins to keep these kids alive. I addition, I have started to donate with VHOPE ORPHAN SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM in UGANDA. You can give $20 and a child can go to school, get food and a home for a full semester. You can give on this link.
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
My friend MEDEA YORBA has been a big supporter of children of need and got me involved in donating to VHOPE ORPHAN SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM in UGANDA. She is not rich and has raised her own kids in addition to many other family members tirelessly for most of her life. And she continues to impress me with her love and dedication to these children in Uganda.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”.
- To work on my confidence, start at the top and work my way down
- to listen more than speak
- remember to take care of your body
- forgive your parents as they are just people like u and me
- Also learn to detach from folks who are unkind.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :-)
I think it would be great for the best actor and the funniest comedian to get the job. But I think that’s a fantasy as we are in a world that is all about a certain kind of beauty and look. I would hope that we could cast people who are talented and have craft in addition to a body of work not on just on race and sexual orientation. I know so many talented people who have not been given opportunities. My hope is that the artists who are not the usual types will get to work and have the good luck to step up to the plate … and their dreams will also get to come true.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
My Dad passed a few years ago. He was a Jewish immigrant who always said to me, in a thick Polish accent, “When you go to the interview, wear a tie and show them you mean business”. I took that to mean, “Be your best self”. And that’s who I strive to be…
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
OMG yes! Whoopi Goldberg, Barbra Streisand, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Ryan Murphy, Tom Hardy, Jodie Foster, J. K Simmons, Jeff Daniels and Scott Rudin.