Meet Upstander Jason Stuart

How do you define bullying?
Another person making advances on someone who he or she feels is inferior to them.

How do you know when you see bullying?
When a person physically or mentally obuses another person thought violence, verbal or cyber and attacks the other person character or being.

Have you ever been bullied? If so, could you share what happened?
Yes. I was bullied my entire childhood for being gay, Jewish and just ‘different’. I was physically and mentally abused most of my Elementary, Junior High and High School. I was passed along on a school bus like I was a football, hit in the face, teased, my house was dirt bombed, my self esteem was gone. But the worst was when someone scraped the word “Fag” lightly on my locker with a nail, and I saw it everyday in Junior High. Never said a word to anyone about until I was 30 years old.

What do you think is the scariest thing about being bullied?
The fear of violence. The humiliation from bullying as a child and teenager stays with you even as you are growing up.

2016-09-tile-upstander-jason-stuart-1080x1080So much of your career has been as a actor and comedian. How would you say humor helps deal with aggressive bullies who have no self awareness or don’t seem to care who they hurt?
It keep them at bay. I made the joke first so they could not hurt me. But it still did hurt. As an adult, you have to learn to communicate with people and learn that being funny or a working actor is not the only way to get people to like you. Sometimes, they just like you for who you are as a person.

Do you think bullies can change? If so, any ideas how?
Yes. It’s like if you could go back in time with your adult self and talk to your teenage self and put your arm around him and let him know, “It shall pass. This will not define you. You will survive it.”

You have a role as a plantation owner in the film biopic of Nat Turner, Birth of a Nation. What was it like portraying a character whose behavior is so abhorrent?
I did not think of anything else but my character’s needs and wants. I only read the script once or twice but I did a lot of research. When I saw the film, even I was shocked at what my character caused. It made me cry and get angry at the atrocities of what we have done to others in the human race.

How do you feel roles like this prompt discussion in establishing greater empathy?
It’s a gift to be a part of a film that will change the perspective of the way we look at slavery. The film is from filmmaker Nate Parker’s years of research and his soul. With that said, the story will be told from a whole new line of thinking: the African-American point of view.

Your web series Mentor got a lot of great reviews. Not many people talk about aging in the LGBT world, but do you feel like community spaces are welcoming to more mature individuals? How could they be more so?
We need to include stories of people over 40 and 50 in more prominent roles. We need to be inclusive and pen to the idea that people are interested in history and age. Meryl Steep said it best on “60 Minutes” a few years ago. She said, “We told people over 50 not to go to the movies, that there was nothing for them.” That’s just not true. We treat straight, white, heterosexual, Christian-appearing men with privilege. We let them in first in all walks of life while the rest of us wait in line for our turn. Those men don’t wait in line: they just walk in. The rest of us need to do that, too.

If you could do one thing to stop all bullying, what would you do?
Talk, discuss, make consequences for their actions. You do not have to name call and attack people to get your point across. But you can state the facts and ask the other side for their opinion. Listen, breathe and be respectful. Even if you disagree.

Jason Stuart is one of entertainment industry’s most prolific character actors, who’s also an outrageous openly gay stand-up comedian. He has close to 200 film & TV shows to his credit, including this year’s, The Birth Of A Nation by filmmaker Nate Parker. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo by Kevin Mcintyre

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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