In April, actor Jason Mitchell was released from his role in the Netflix film Desperados shortly after filming began. Weeks later, he was dropped from Lena Waithe's Showtime series The Chi due to multiple sexual misconduct allegations. On Thursday, Waithe appeared on The Breakfast Club to discuss Mitchell's misconduct towards women and admitted that she wishes she had acted sooner.
Mitchell was accused of inappropriate behavior by multiple women on the set of The Chi, including actress Tiffany Boone and Season 2 showrunner Ayanna Floyd. Waithe told the radio show's hosts that she learned of Mitchell's behavior after the first season had concluded, prompting her to hire Floyd, a black woman, and another unnamed woman of color to establish different power dynamics on set.
“Not to say that women are exempt from doing things, but I think it would make it a safer environment. That was my assumption,” Waithe explained. “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.'”
Although cast and crew members on The Chi received HR training, Mitchell's alleged behavior continued, prompting Boone to request that she be released from the show. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Floyd explicitly implicated Waithe while discussing how everyone on set knew about Mitchell's sordid conduct.
“I discussed Tiffany’s claims with the studio’s HR department and set up HR presentations for the writers, cast and crew," she said. "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.”
During her Breakfast Club appearance, Waithe admitted that she wished she had acted immediately after learning of Mitchell's behavior. “What I wanna do is own that I wish I would’ve handled the situation differently, and I wish I would’ve done more. What I wanna do is own my part in it.”
The executive producer noted that she attempted to have a conversation with Mitchell about his conduct, telling him, "you need to be respectful of women on set." She added that her concern partially stems from the fact that his behavior is a reflection of 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,” she said. “I can’t have you out here acting crazy if you’re on my show because it bears my name.”
Waithe was criticized in the wake of Mitchell's departure, who argued that she should have fired him immediately after learning about his inappropriate actions. However, the show's creator explained that she doesn't have "the power to fire anyone," given she doesn't own the show. "People don't understand that," she said.
In addition to being fired from his upcoming gigs, Mitchell was dropped by his management, his lawyer, and his agent.