Actor Jason Stuart has over 35 years of steady work on film and television as a character actor. He came out of the closet as gay early on in his career and the parts only improved. Who else could play a better hairstylist in Kindergarten Cop? More movie appearances followed with Vegas Vacation, Drop Dead Gorgeous and Tangerine. Stuart was nominated for a Gay International Film Award for Best Supporting Actor in the indie film Coffee Date.
Television credits range from Murder, She Wrote to Will & Grace.
With Stand-up, he's released a comedy album titled Jason Stuart: Gay Comedy Without a Dress and a DVD of Jason Stuart: Making It to the Middle for Here!
His latest project, the short film Hank, shows at the 37th Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival and he plans to fly into town for the opening night's festivities. Hank tells the story of Hank and Tommy who have been married for 15 years. They decide to open their relationship and adventures ensue…
Windy City Times: Are you calling from LA?
Jason Stuart: Yes. I live here and in Palm Springs.
WCT: Everyone is moving to Palm Springs. I need to buy a place there!
JS: I think you do. It is less chaotic.
WCT: When did you come out of the closet after being a performer?
JS: In 1993, on The Geraldo Rivera Show. If you go on my website JasonStuart.com under videos, you can see a video of it there. It was a big decision at the time and it changed my life. It was before Ellen DeGeneres or Ricky Martin.
Being in the closet was like standing on the shoes, behind the leather jacket, with hat boxes in the way. Every once in a while, someone would open the door, turn on the light, shine it in my eyes, grab something, take it out and then slam the door. That's how I made all my decisions and who I was. I eventually peaked my head out.
WCT: Was Hank filmed in LA?
JS: Yes, it was. I play a very sweet, kind man, who has been in a long term relationship. My husband in the movie wants the relationship to be open and I don't. The film has me getting the best reviews since The Birth of a Nation, three years ago. That has been gratifying. This film has taken on a life of its own.
WCT: Is it more rewarding to do the serious roles over the funny ones?
JS: I don't think of it that way, because the process is the same for me as an actor. I want to be good. It's the same whether it's a big budget or small budget picture, comedy or drama. I do the same homework. I try to create the best performance that I can do. I love the work honestly.
Hank I didn't audition for. The casting director saw me in Tangerine playing a night club manager. He saw me for my work and that's my goal. I don't want to be seen as a gay, comedian or a character actor. I want to be seen as a person with the ability to do different things.
WCT: Talk about Shut Up, I'm Talking: Coming Out in Hollywood and Making it to the Middle.
JS: It was going to be called I'm Not Barbra Streisand, but she was going to have a book out and the publisher was worried she would sue us. I thought that would be the greatest thing that ever happened. I was telling my mom on the phone about it and interrupted her. She said, "Shut up, I'm talking" and I knew that was the name of the book.
WCT: Have you met Barbra Streisand?
JS: I met her at the Grammy Awards when I was a kid. I was an actor's assistant there. Streisand was nominated for "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" with Neil Diamond. I was assigned to Dionne Warwick, but when she was rehearsing Barbra walked over to me and wanted to look at my script. I shook her hand and told her how great she was. She then asked for her hand back. I forgot I was holding her hand, because I was so nervous!
WCT: You have a movie called Immortal that's coming out?
JS: Yes. We just got into a big film festival. I saw they were casting on a website so I submitted myself. He loved my demo reel and three days later I did the film. My scene is five minutes in a feature film. I play a private investigator, who deals in spyware. It's four separate stories about people who just can't die.
WCT: What else are you working on?
JS: I have a new series that I just finished called Smothered. It's about two older gay men who have been in a 30 year relationship and hate each other, but can't afford to get divorced!
See Hank with Stuart on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St., as part of the Behind Closed Doors shorts program. For a complete schedule of Reeling Chicago presentations visit ReelingFilmFestival.org .