'The Chi' Creator Lena Waithe on Jason Mitchell: "I Wish I Would've Done More"
In an interview Thursday on 'The Breakfast Club' after the sexual misconduct claims against Mitchell got him fired, Waithe said she told the actor, "You need to be respectful of women on set."
Lena Waithe has spoken out about the multiple sexual misconduct claims that got actor Jason Mitchell fired from her Showtime series The Chi. Speaking with the radio show The Breakfast Club on Thursday, Waithe said that she regrets not acting sooner.
Mitchell was accused of inappropriate behavior by The Chi actress Tiffany Boone and season two showrunner Ayanna Floyd Davis. Waithe explained on The Breakfast Club that she hired Davis, a black woman, after she had heard about Mitchell's alleged misconduct once the first season of The Chi wrapped. Waithe's hope was that having a female at the helm of the show would create an environment where women felt safe.
"Not to say that women are exempt from doing things, but I think it would make it a safer environment. That was my assumption," said Waithe. "Then I get a call from Ayanna saying things are persisting but not a lot has changed in that area. She told me, 'You can't reach out to anybody. You've got to sit tight. HR has to handle this."
Though HR required The Chi's cast, crew and writers to attend training sessions about what is and isn't appropriate on set, Mitchell's alleged inappropriate behavior continued and ultimately caused Boone to ask to be released from the series. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published earlier this week, Davis confirmed that Waithe was aware of the accusations made against Mitchell and his "multiple HR cases."
"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," said Davis.
During her interview with The Breakfast Club, Waithe admitted that she should have done more after hearing about Mitchell's alleged misconduct. "What I want to do is own that I wish I would've handled the situation differently," she said. "And I wish I would've done more. What I want to do is own my part in it."
Waithe went on to say that she made an attempt to speak with Mitchell about his treatment of women, telling him, "You need to be respectful of women on set." She also said that she didn't want his behavior to reflect poorly on her: "Because even though he's an actor on a show of mine, his behavior is also a representation of me, and I can't have that. I can’t have you out here acting crazy if you're on my show because it bears my name."
In response to criticism that she should have fired Mitchell immediately after learning of the claims made against him, Waithe said that she doesn't have "the power to fire anyone." She added, "People don't understand that."
Mitchell has since been dropped by his management, lawyer and agent. He has also lost more gigs, including his role in the Netflix film Desperados.
Watch Waithe's interview with The Breakfast Club below.