Creator of The Chi, Lena Waithe, speaks out on Jason Mitchell, how things were handled, and how they will affect season 3
|Subject(s)||The Chi, Jason Mitchell, Lena Waithe, Showtime|
With a call into The Breakfast Club, media personality Charlamagne Tha God has a one on one conversation with Waithe about the allegations and fallout. The gist of which is Waithe handled things the way anyone else would who is new to the system. She reminds CTG that this was her first show and she is the type to take ownership. Which is why, when she went on to other projects to get them going, she sought Ayanna Floyd (who worked with Lee Daniels and Shonda Rhimes previously) to run season 2 of The Chi. For with her being a Black woman, with credentials, it was expected she could handle things.
However, according to Waithe, this wasn’t the case. Mitchell, despite a sexual harassment training from HR, a warning in the June 2018 Hollywood Reporter Roundtable, and Floyd’s attempts, remained an issue. One which has now created a situation beyond Mitchell, who Waithe says she has no intentions to work with again.
My management philosophy […] is that they’re gonna do what I would do, if I had time, 85% of the time and I have to learn to live with the 15.
– Ted Sarandos
How so? Well, on the low-key, Waithe presents a defensive front to help explain how out of the loop she was alongside how she lacks firing power. Divulging further, with Waithe working on her own shows, such as Boomerang on BET, working on Queen & Slim, her dream project of Twenties, and acting in Westworld, she has showrunners for a reason. They are supposed to handle what she can’t because she isn’t able to be everywhere. So when it comes to Ayanna Floyd’s statement, which made it appear Waithe was enabling Mitchell’s behavior, there is a bit of conflict.
Why? Well, because nothing was said privately before the statement and, again, with Floyd being the showrunner, it was expected she would be able to handle things. And while, yes, Waithe was aware, spoke with actress Tiffany Boone, who played the girlfriend of Mitchell’s character, after the HR meetings and sexual harassment training, it was assumed things were fine. Then, when it wasn’t, Waithe says Floyd said she was handling it, and it had become a legal issue.
So with Waithe’s name not dragged through the mud, but being made to seem hypocritical, she clears up a few things: First and foremost, with her selling the show to Showtime, they own the show, and they make the decisions. For, similar to SMILF, the network has all the power and can fire any actor, showrunner, or remove the creator if they choose to. However, with Waithe, they valued her input, and that is what led to Floyd being hired, amongst the diverse crew.
Secondly, Waithe makes it clear she believes the women and that is why Mitchell will not be returning to season 3 and, again, she won’t likely work with him, despite them formerly being close. Lastly, based on what went down, it seems, at least with The Chi, for now, she is going to be more hands on. She even says she may pursue being more direct vs. following a more corporate “red tape” method, which she feels allowed things to spiral. For, as Waithe notes, at the end of the day, the show has her name on it. Floyd may have been running things, but she isn’t the one who is a visible part of #TimesUp. Floyd isn’t the one on talk shows, whose name is all over the place, and has built a reputation known as much to the public as it is in industry circles. So, to protect her name from direct or indirect statements, she has to reassert her influence beyond the corporate level she believes.
And with that said, she drops some spoilers. The first being the obvious of Brandon not being in season 3, but we are also informed Jerrika is currently not planned to be in season 3 either. Also, Douda, one of the most prolific villains this season, he will continue into season 3. This includes most of the cast from the kids, Reggie, and Emmett. Making it seem, while Jerrika and Brandon will leave a hole in the show, as when Coogie got killed, life will move on.
One of the big things to derive from this, even question, is how much of this conversation was about protecting the brand? Unlike most interviews with CTG, there isn’t much in the way of back and forth, no jokes, this was serious and very direct. Beyond a press release but a few steps before venting. Which is understandable. Waithe has come a long way from being an assistant and, naturally, she isn’t trying to get taken down and out due to one man and a situation which perhaps was mishandled.
Though, I do wonder, considering her work with Mara Brock Akil, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ava DuVernay, among many other heavyweights, did she seek them out for advice? Because, one of the narratives pushed in the interview was this idea that she was new to having a show, multiple ones at that, and the mistakes made was because she entrusted someone else. Leading to her statement about being more hands-on. So one has to wonder, despite the network she had, did she feel like she couldn’t reach out? Maybe that, with her being the torchbearer for this new generation, she didn’t want to show weakness or anything like that – publicly or privately?
Naturally, we don’t know Waithe’s relationships, so who is to say? But she does make it sound in pursuit of keeping the door open for new talent, she is overwhelming herself. Then, with the Floyd situation, which she makes sound almost personal, that she is starting to catch wind of how things are done when you aren’t under someone’s umbrella, and it’s your name which can be dragged in the mud. Leaving you to wonder if Waithe may slow things down out of fear of having another hire like Floyd who makes things seem fine until they blow up and they have to cover their behind. Since, comparing Floyd’s statement to what Waithe says, it does seem like Waithe is questioning why isn’t Floyd owning up to her part in Mitchell’s drama?
But considering Showtime seems to still be cool with Waithe, and only certain segments of the public are putting the onus on her, this will likely be no more than a speedbump.