Jason Stuart is an actor and comedian who is celebrating twenty-five years as an openly gay Jewish entertainer who can expertly play both gay and straight roles. On August 8, he will star alongside Keanu Reeves and is also playing a key role as a police detective in “Diverted Eden,” a thriller film.

Jason has earned the title of “Best Actor” and directed and starred in a short film titled “Like Father.” Jason recently discussed his career and more via an exclusive interview.

Career, characters, and screenplays

Meagan Meehan (MM): You are both an actor and a comedian, so which talent took your fancy first?

Jason Stuart (JS): Much like Barbra Streisand, I see myself as an actor first. Acting has always been my roots and my first love. Stand-up comedy has always been like quick fast lovemaking and so much fun! Being an actor is more like a relationship with a beginning, middle, and end. I love it, but it’s a straight boy’s world that I get to live in once a while. But when I'm there, it’s great!

MM: You’ve had an interesting career so far, what are the highlights?

JS: Being cast in a supporting role in the film "The Birth of a Nation," playing “Joseph Randall," a white, heterosexual, Christian plantation owner in 1831. As a liberal, gay, Jew this was as far from who I was and could be. The amount of love I received from the actor community in being able to get the role filled my heart.

Joan Rivers said in her book; you only need one person to choose you and others will follow. That person for me was Nate Parker, the star, producer, writer, and director of this important film. He is a force of life to behold, and I hope to work with him again. The film is about the first black man to fight back against the white slave owners, me.

Playing the gay shrink on the hit TV sitcom "My Wife & Kids," starring Damon Wayons and Tisha Campbell, that show is where stand-up comedy timing and my all my hard work in acting class met and bloomed. I am forever grateful to Damon, the producer Don Reo, director James Widdios and the writers Jim Valley, Janet Hirsh, Bruce Fine and Kim Wayons.

All wrote and supported me into this truly wonderful recurring role that changed my career. With those two jobs, it made me a better actor and gave me great hope that I would have a long career as a character actor.

MM: What sorts of characters do you most like to play and/or aspire to play and why?

JS: It’s really about the people you work with. Talented people who inspire me are what I look for. I never hesitate to send a letter to a filmmaker I’d love to work with. I'd like to play more Dads and be more a part of the story in the film. But I also love playing villains as they are some of the most fun roles. I also loved my character on "The Closer" as the annoying New York manager of a storage bin who found a dead body!

Thank you, writer/producer, Adam Belanoff who got me in for the role and for James Duff for saying yes! It was another game changer for me.

MM: What kind of screenplays do you look for when you’re searching for roles?

JS: I’m always looking for a great story with great dialogue that is not on the nose. I love Oscar winner Alvin Sargent who wrote: “Ordinary People” and “Julia” some of my favorite films...among so many others. But would also like to work with Jordan Peele, Jill Soloway, Spike Lee and again with the Duplass Brothers. I love to be able to support the filmmaker's vision and have been so lucky to have worked with guys like Sean Baker and Ira Sacks. I really want to have a great supporting role in Lee Daniels next film or Ava DuVernay and of course Barbra Streisand if she ever makes another film.

It’s really about the filmmaker and being part of his or her vision. It’s like being in a family for a short time; I just love that feeling.

MM: You are renowned for being able to convey both gay and straight characters, so how do you get into each unique character?

JS: It has never been a problem for me. It was the way people thought of me when I was young that was. But to be honest in my early days, my voice was higher, and I was figuring out who I was. Gay people were too hidden away, and I was told this by many. I think as I’ve gotten older a journalist once said that Jason Stuart has got more masculine now that he is openly gay. I have embraced that side of me as I’ve aged and it seems like more of who I am.

Not that being feminine was a bad thing, it just was not who I was in my soul. So, I guess the long answer is it’s up to the gatekeepers to keep an open mind.

Roles, goals, producing and directing

MM: What roles are coming up for you soon and what most excites you about them?

JS: I will play “Oscar Bustamente” a council person accused of a crime. It’s in the new comedy series "Swedish Dicks" s airing Aug 9. I play a few detectives also, a police Det. In the action film "Diverted Eden" and in the thriller "Immortal." I'm in the pilot "The Strivers" where I play a ruthless lawyer that will be at OutFest July 16. Pretty cool huh?! They don't usually screen pilots, but they are this year.

MM: You also produce and direct, so what is it like to assume those jobs on set?

JS: Yes, I have a short film "Like Father" that will screen at the "Love International Film Festival" July 25 and will be debut on the Dekkoo. I won the best actor nod and a best short 2nd place for the film that appeared in 12 festivals of late. I am so proud of this film. I directed, produced and acted in as a dad who wants to be forgiven by his son before the character dies. It’s all about moving on in life and forgiveness. It’s really for my dad who passed six years ago. He taught me to show up in life and be the best person you can, and that’s what I strive for every day. You can also watch my web series "Mentor" on Amazon. I also acted and directed. That’s my career, always working on creating art.

Then have the good sense to care enough to promote it the best way I can. Thank you, Dad, for that.

MM: Generally speaking, what are your grandest goals for your future as both an actor and a comedian?

JS: I want to do that supporting role that breaks me like Monique did in "Precious" or Philip Seymour Hoffman did in "The Talented Mr. Ripley." That also is the most creative experience that touches me deeply as an artist and affects people in the showbiz community so I can keep working till the end of my days.

Also, I host a weekly podcast called "Sh#t I Love with Jason Stuart" with people I can’t stop talking about. You can find it on my website I love the idea of supporting talented people and giving them a place to share their work.

I have had everybody on from Jason George from "Grey's Anatomy" to Kate Flannery from "The Office." What more fun can you have when a friend calls and says, “I was on your show, and someone called me to do a job!” How great it is to open doors for fellow artists who might not have the same opportunity as others. That means a lot to me.