Lena Waithe is finally speaking out about the controversy surrounding Jason Mitchell, the star of her hit SHOWTIME series, The Chi.
After news broke that Mitchell’s inappropriate behavior got him axed from the successful series as well as a Netflix film, Desperados and fired by his agent and management team, many wondered how Waithe, a huge supporter of the #MeToo movement, could allow this to occur.
She spoke publicly for the first time, discussing the situation on the phone with Charlemagne The God. Simply put Waithe said she was aware of the allegations but didn’t have the power to fire Mitchell.
“I don’t have the power to fire anybody,” she explained. “I don’t! I wish I did! I don’t own “The Chi.” I created it, I sold it – so it’s like, I could be fired off “The Chi.” Season one of “The Chi” was just, like, a couple- maybe three years ago. And that was before people really knew who I was. So I was one of those powerless women of color in this industry. Even though they say, ‘Oh you wrote a pilot! You created a show and sold it’ – that’s true, but I didn’t have a whole ton of power on that show, or a lot of say. You’re almost an employee on your own set.”
As previously reported actress Tiffany Boone, who played Mitchell’s girlfriend on The Chi, was among several actresses on the series who had issues with Mitchell. Lena says she actually didn’t learn about Boone’s allegations against Mitchell until after season one wrapped.
“I knew what I was dealing with on the show, but I wasn’t made aware of anything going on with Tiffany until after the season had wrapped and when Tiffany and I had a conversation – and out of respect for her privacy, ’cause the conversation we had was private – we did discuss stuff that was just inappropriate. And I remember looking at her – ’cause we were facetiming – and I was like, ‘Yo! This is not cool! I feel awful that you had this experience on my set that’s not pleasant.’”
Lena explains that she did everything within her power to make sure the set was a safe environment including hiring a female show runner, Ayanna Floyd Davis, for season 2.
“By the time the season had wrapped, I had a little bit more power. I had a little bit more clout, and I was like, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do to change that. I’mma hire a woman of color as the showrunner….’ – so I can already say that the idea of me hearing something and not doing anything just isn’t true,” she said.
Davis told The Hollywood Reporter, that she also made Waithe aware of allegations against Mitchell and that his behavior was inappropriate with numerous women on set including her.
“Ultimately, everyone was well aware of Jason’s behavior and his multiple HR cases, including Lena, the creator and an executive producer of the show, who is very involved at the studio and network level,” she explained, also telling THR she is not returning as showrunner for season 3.
Waithe told Charlamagne that she had a conversation with Mitchell about his behavior, but ultimately will not work with him again.
“There’s only so much I can do with a person. If other people wanna work with him, that’s their prerogative. For me, I just don’t think it’s right ’cause I can’t stand by these women and continue to work with him and put money in his pocket.”
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