Lena Waithe dialed into The Breakfast Club on Thursday to address Jason Mitchell’s alleged misconduct on the set of her Showtime series The Chi. The actor was fired from the show following complaints of misconduct by several women, including his former love interest Tiffany Boone and Season 2 showrunner Ayanna Floyd.
Waithe said that once she learned about Mitchell’s behavior after the show’s first season wrapped, she immediately moved into action, bringing on new staff to help change the environment. “There were huge precautions that we took. The writers had extensive sexual harassment training,” she said. “There was extensive sexual harassment training on set.”
Waithe said she hired Floyd, a Black woman, and an unnamed queer woman of color to put them in a “position of power” that would ensure the cast and crew would feel safe on the 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 said.
According to Waithe, the changes she implemented improved morale until she was alerted of an issue by Floyd while shooting the show’s second season. “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,'” she explained.
Waithe said sitting tight was a huge mistake. “My biggest regret is that I wish I would have just said forget that and not trusted anybody to do my job,” she said. “I wish I just would’ve reached out to Tiffany on my own.”
Accepting full responsibility for the situation, Waithe said, “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.”
Waithe said that she even attempted to have a personal conversation with Mitchell after she learned about his behavior. “I was like, ‘You need to be respectful of any woman on set. You need to be respectful of everybody.’ 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.”
Though many assumed Waithe personally refused to let Mitchell go from the series, she said that she couldn’t. “I don’t have the power to fire anyone. I don’t. I wish I did,” she said. “I don’t own The Chi. I created it. I sold it. I could be fired off The Chi. That’s real. People don’t understand that.”
Despite the public discussion about Mitchell’s misconduct, Waithe said she’s still unaware of what exactly transpired. “The real tea is I don’t even know the full story because that stuff goes to a legal department and they don’t release that information,” she explained.
Mitchell was also dropped this month from his talent agency, management company and several Netflix Originals projects. In addition to complaints from Boone and Floyd, he was accused of misconduct by three of his Good Universe co-stars before the film began shooting.
Check out Waithe’s interview on The Breakfast Club below.
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Jasmine Washington is a beauty-obsessed journalist by day and a trap music connoisseur by night. A lifelong New Yorker, she got her start as an intern at the now-defunct Juicy Magazine. Jasmine joined the EBONY.com team as a writer, penning daily stories on all things Black culture and entertainment.