Lena Waithe on Jason Mitchell Allegations: ‘I Wish I Would’ve Handled It Differently’

The Chi” creator Lena Waithe explained her response to the Jason Mitchell misconduct allegations in an interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” on Thursday.

Mitchell was fired from “The Chi” after harassment allegations from showrunner Ayanna Floyd Davis and co-star Tiffany Boone. The actor was also fired from the Netflix film “Desperados,” in addition to being dropped by all of his representation.

Waithe said in the interview that she knew of the allegations after filming had wrapped on season one of “The Chi” and took preemptive and corrective measures to handle the situation. She said there was extensive sexual harassment training on set and that she confronted the actor about the allegations. “There was definitely a conversation where I called him and got really real,” she said. “‘You need to be respectful of any woman on set. You need to be respectful of everybody,’ she said she told Mitchell. “‘Don’t treat any woman differently the way you would treat me.'” Waithe also claimed that Mitchell had never acted inappropriately towards her. 

To remedy the situation, Waithe brought on a black woman (Floyd Davis) as the season two showrunner. She assumed that this would lead to a “safer environment” on set. “I don’t regret making a black woman a showrunner. I do regret trusting her to handle it all by herself,” she said. Going forward, she wants to have a more hands on role in “The Chi.” She said, “Just cause you look like me, don’t mean you act like me.”

When pressed on the radio show why she didn’t intervene and fire the actor, Waithe claimed she didn’t possess that authority. “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.”

According to Waithe, the involved parties resolved their issues with the HR department and agreed to return for season two, but the misconduct issues continued during the filming of the show’s sophomore season. “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.'”

Waithe said her biggest regret was stepping back as HR handled the situation. “I wish I had reached out to Tiffany on my own,” she said. “As a black woman we got to reach out to each other and get rid of the middle man.”

She responded to criticisms of her handling of the situation. “For anyone to say I would stand by while a woman is being mistreated or harassed and not doing anything is just not true, it’s not who I am,” she said. “I was trying to put people in power to change, but ultimately that wasn’t the answer, I’m always the answer and that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned in all of this.”

And she owned up to shortcomings in how she dealt with the situation. “What I want to do is own that I wish I would’ve handled the situation differently, and I wish I would’ve done more. What I want to do is own my part in it,” she said.

The Chicago based ensemble show will continue without Mitchell and Boone for a third season. “Chicago is bigger than one person, bigger than two people,” said Waithe. “[Boone] has an open door to come to set, Jason does not.”

Listen to the entire interview here.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • The First -- "The Choice" -

    Sean Penn Drama 'The First' Was 'Unrelatable' to British Audiences, Channel 4 Exec Says

    Channel 4’s director of programs Ian Katz says the British broadcaster has learned a good lesson from the failure last year of its big-budget Hulu co-production “The First” to resonate with U.K. audiences. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Katz described the Sean Penn-starring drama about a mission to Mars as a “really classy piece [...]

  • Hugh Laurie

    Hugh Laurie to Star in New BBC Thriller 'Roadkill' by David Hare

    Hugh Laurie, the Golden Globe-winning star of “House” and “The Night Manager,” will play a beleaguered politician in a new four-part thriller for the BBC, “Roadkill,” from acclaimed playwright and screenwriter David Hare. The series is being produced by The Forge (“Collateral”). Laurie stars as Peter Laurence, a charismatic Conservative Party government minister who remains [...]

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content