Lena Waithe Speaks on Jason Mitchell’s Sexual Harassment Allegations On the Set of “The Chi”
Writer/actress Lena Waithe has been under the microscope of the public in the past few weeks regarding allegations of sexual assault on the set of her Showtime series, “The Chi.” She spoke publicly for the first time, discussing the situation with Charlamagne tha God. Lena, who is the creator and executive producer of the show, detailed her account on the allegations surrounding Jason Mitchell and how his release from the series was handled.
Lena says she became aware of Tiffany Boone’s allegations against Jason 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 of “The Chi” was a safe environment.
“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…There were conversations that were had, HR was made aware, and all the parties involved were like, ‘This thing has been resolved enough that all artists are willing to return to the show.’ So I was like, ‘Ok, if you wanna come back, I wanna make sure that the environment was equipped. When she came back to set, I made sure that there was damn near a whole different crew. And also, there were whole precautions that we took. The writers had extensive sexual harassment training. There was extensive sexual harassment training on set, and I do recall Tiffany – when we were texting – saying, ‘Let’s get some sexual harassment training.’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely.'”
She also explains why she didn’t stop Tiffany Boone from leaving the show.
“I was told she wanted to go – one, because I think she was just at a place of there’s no repairing it. And I think she wanted to explore other opportunities, and I didn’t wanna hold her back from that. I’m never gonna say, ‘Hey! You stay here. I don’t care what you want.’ I really want to respect her wishes. Another thing, again, I’m not really in control over who stays or goes on the show. I can make a pitch! I can say, ‘Yo, let’s get rid of this person.’ But, ultimately it’s not my decision. As a matter of fact, I can be on some, ‘Oh, it’s me or Jason’ – and they could pick Jason!”
She also defends Tiffany.
“What I wanna do is make things right with Tiffany on a personal level, ’cause she don’t deserve to be dragged. She’s the one who we need to actually be protecting. She’s someone I stand next to. And I think, to me, she’s representative of a lot of women of color who are ignored, and are silenced, and are pushed away…I think her and him [Tiffany’s fiance, Marque Richardson] should be left alone to live their lives. I think they’re both extremely talented actors with bright futures.”
Lena says she doesn’t have the power to fire anyone because she no longer owns the show.
“I don’t have the power to fire anybody. 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.”
She admits her biggest regret in how she handled the allegations against Jason Mitchell:
“…so then we get into season two, and things are running pretty smoothly. I’m not hearing anything, I’m hearing that the set is completely different…and everything is just, sort of, moving. And then I get a call from Ayanna [Floyd, the show’s showrunner] saying, ‘Things are persisting, and not a lot has changed in that area…but you can’t reach out to anybody. You gotta let HR handle this.’ And my biggest regret is that I wish I said, ‘Forget that,’ and not trusted anybody to do my job. And I wish I would’ve just reached out on my own, and been like, ‘Yo what’s goin’ on?’ And, ultimately, I wanted to chuck my showrunner at the time.”
She also says that she had a conversation with Jason about how he should treat women.
“There was a conversation where I called him and got really real. And I think I said something to the effect of, ‘Treat women how you would treat me.’ Because, I, personally, have never had an inappropriate or weird or whatever interaction with him. But, I don’t care. I’m a person who believes women…Just human-to-human, I told him, ‘You need to be respectful of any human on set. You need to be respectful of anybody.’ Because, again, even though he’s an actor on a set of mine, his behavior is a direct reflection of me. And I can’t have that. I can’t have you out here actin’ crazy if you on my show, ’cause it bears my name.'”
She shares what she believes Jason needs to do to resolve his career.
“What I believe he has to do is really go work on himself, and really look internally because this is a bigger issue. This is bigger than just my show. This is some other things going on- which I know nothing about. I don’t know nothin’ about this Netflix thing. I don’t know nothin’ about why his agency dropped him. That stuff is very very much outside of me, but all I know is that he – just on a human level – has to get right…that’s on him. That’s his responsibility. I can’t fix Jason Mitchell. All I can fix is my behavior and how I move forward.”
When asked if she would work with Jason Mitchell in the future, she responds.
“Honestly, I will not. And I can only speak for myself- I think it’s because of the behavior that happened even after. I tried to approve things after I spoke to him. What that says to me is 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.”
Do you believe Lena Waithe handled the sexual harassment allegations on “The Chi” appropriately? Let us know in the comments.
Written by Miata Shanay