Monday, February 15, 2021

Jason Stuart: When You Break the Ground, Do You Get to Walk On It?

For the last few years, Jason Stuart has been asking this question; "When you break the ground do you get to walk on it?" Stuart has reached the peak of success after years of steady work in film & television and on stage, with over 250 credits on his IMDB page. 

"For the past few years, people have begun to approach me and say, 'you're that guy," says Stuart. Here's why.

Jason is, along with Mitch Hara, the co-star, co-writer and co-producer of the hit Amazon comedy series Smothered. The outrageous series tells the story of a long-time hateful Jewish gay couple who are unable to stand each other anymore. Yet, they can't afford to divorce. Both actors are nominated for best digital performance & series for the Queerty Awards. Recently, he just finished filming Goliath episode 6 starring Billy Bob Thornton opposite J.K. Simmons on Amazon. He is currently featured in the thriller Immortal, starring Dylan Baker, Tony Todd and Robin Barlett, opposite Samm Levine. Also available on demand, he plays "Joe," a private investigator who deals with spy equipment. Perhaps most excitingly, he plays a Polish immigrant in the dark comedy "Tribes", starring & produced by Jake Hunter that had its premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, is now heading to Cannes Film Festival, and is being considered for an Oscar nomination. Adam Waheed and DeStorm Power also starred from filmmaker Nino Aldi.

Just as his identity as a gay man has not fully defined his career, Jason is also proud of how he has kept his reputation as a comedian while still flourishing as an actor. “I’ve always thought about myself as an actor first, comedian second,” he says. “When I think of what I want to do with the next phase of my career, I think about being a great character actor. I revered the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, his ability to always disappear into his characters, no matter the role. He was a character actor who happened to be a movie star.” Jason’s new comedy Album, I’m The Daddy And I Have Candy will be dropping Feb 19th on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes and more. 

His autobiography, Shut Up, I'm Talking! from CCB Publishing, has been receiving outstanding reviews on Amazon. It’s the funny, poignant story of a gay Jewish boy whose life changed after seeing Funny Girl at a second-run movie theatre in Hollywood. “I thought to myself, I’m in love with Omar Sharif – who am I left to be but Barbra Streisand! And I’m a guy... Oy!” It’s about surviving a crazy family who survived the Holocaust and clearing up the wreckage of one’s past while learning how to become a man.

He also just starred in the short “Hank” from director Hongyu "Neo" Li and co-starring Jay Disney, about a gay couple who consider an open relationship, which continues to earn praise at numerous festivals, including winning the Best LGBTQ Short at this year’s Los Angeles International Film Festival. In Hongyu "Neo" Li's sophomore film, which is available on REVRY Stuart has already received rave reviews and many other award nominations and wins were given to the film. After seeing his performances in the Sundance hits Tangerine, as "Joey the doorman" and made on iPhone comedy, and The Birth of a Nation, a historical drama & breakthrough performance as Joseph Randall, one of the villainous plantation owners at the wrong end of a rebellion, Li approached Stuart with the role of Hank.

For Jason, one of the most significant moments in his recent career was being cast as Joseph Randall, in Nate Parker’s searing historical drama, The Birth of a Nation. Being cast by Parker was a sign for Stuart that he had turned the corner from funny gay comic to established character actor. “I remember Nate saying to me that part of what he wanted was my activism,” he recalls. “He wanted advocates for different communities, and he knew that I’d represented not just the LGBTQ community, but I’ve worked on behalf of Black Lives Matter, the homeless, youth, and Jewish causes.” 

At the same time, taking on the role of an empowered racist in 1831 Virginia also allowed Jason to reflect on his own evolving complex identity. “How can I be gay and Jewish and have white privilege?” he found himself wondering through working on Parker’s film. “It helped me establish this new part of my career, and it changed me as an actor and a human being,” he says of the experience. “To tell the history of this man, Nat Turner, who had the audacity, tenaciousness and self-esteem as a black man, in 1831, to stand up against his slave owners knowing he would be murdered. Is he mentally ill? A martyr? Touched by God?” 

As an activist, his work has always been an incremental part of his life. He said, "When you go up to the success elevator, take people with you." With that philosophy, Stuart is currently the National Co-Chair of the SAG AFTRA LGBT Committee. He was given the Jose Julio Sarria International Civil Rights Award for his work with the group, which was provided by the International Imperial Court System and The Persist Award. For 6 years, he has also chaired the Lifeworks Mentoring Program comedy shows and continues to mentor both straight and LGBTQ performers.