How did you start your career in the entertainment industry? What inspired you to work in this business?
JASON: My mother was a movie star without a film and my dad was a king without a country. The only way to get any attention was to be an Actor & Comedian. Hence here I am today…please love me! Lol.
MITCH: I came out of the womb, demanding attention. Just to make sure everyone had all eyes and hands on me, I came out feet first and took 19 hours to pop out of my mother’s vagina. I always wanted actor or a magic spirit flying through the air. My father tried to crush my soul. But he was unsuccessful and I’m still here. Plus, I was a fat kid, and I found having a sense of humor dissuaded people from spitting on my head.
Congratulations on your critically acclaimed series, Smothered! Can you tell us more about this show?
JASON: It’s about a bickering, button-pushing gay couple who can’t stand each other but can’t afford to get divorced. Randy & Ralph attempt to salvage their hideous relationship in therapy hell.
MITCH: It’s a hysterical, touching, psychotic exploration of love, crashing to bits like cheap China from the Olive Garden.
JASON: It’s also a celebration of diversity, Little People, Transsexuals, Asians, Latin X, Blacks, Whites, Jews, Closet Cases & a fluid dog–
MITCH: –and that was just Season 1! (7 five-minute episodes). Hysterical, claustrophobic and contained. Season 2 is 8 ten-minute episodes. We open the series up and our characters & added 25 guest stars. So, after unsuccessfully robbing a bank to get away from each other, they wind up in the same cell so the other inmates don’t kill them in their sleep.
JASON: They’ve lost everything & have no choice but to share a tiny efficiency at the LGBTQA+ center in Hollywood. So today, Randy & Ralph still can’t stand each other, still can’t afford a divorce–
MITCH: –and it’s gonna take a lot more than, the Jewish Mafia, murders, heavy meds, wacked-out shrinks and naked men to keep them from killing each other or everyone else.
Were there particular circumstances or personal experiences that shaped the narrative? How do you think this project will change and make an impact in today’s society?
JASON: The idea of a couple whether they are gay or not, is universal. We decided as artists that we will not wait for permission to create. We used a lot of our own experiences as friends. How we would fight and how we made it so funny!
MITCH: It’s funny, as the world evolves, Smothered Season 2 just becomes more relevant. A long-term couple who are disappointed with who they are and are kind of stuck and love each other and hate each other and wanna destroy each other and want to blame each other for everything that didn’t happen.
JASON: And, keep looking outside the relationship to make things better.
MITCH: Yeh. And when we pitch this to executives, “It’s about a hideous (gay) couple who can’t stand each other but can’t afford to get divorced.” They always go, “Like 90% of LA.” It’s very human. I mean, we make it funny as fu*k. Pain is funny and in Season 2 me & Jason wanted to make sure there’s the flipside of the genius banter and you really see where their hearts live. Because the bottom line is, who would Randy & Ralph be if they were not reflected in each other’s eyes? Funny & touching, huh?
Can you walk us through the process of preparing for your role in the project? What were the challenges and breakthroughs you’ve encountered along the way, and how did you overcome it?
JASON: Mitch had a very specific character he wanted to play who was very strong, outrageously funny and dark. So, I created a character that was the polar opposite. Ralph is sweet, lives in his own world and not the sharpest knife in the draw.
MITCH: Well, like Ralph, Jason lives in his own world, surrounded by pink fairies and little blue bunnies. Ralph and Randy are certainly alter-egos of both of us. One of us is very needy, narcissistic and believe they’re empathetic.
JASON: The other one, could care less what anybody thinks of him or if anyone likes him, or if what he says is too direct, and possibly mean…
MITCH: Totally! And, I learned that the underbelly of Randy, the emotional life, what he does when he really thinks he’s losing and how that really affects him is where the emotional gold is buried. It makes him human & multifaceted. I didn’t want him to be just irreverent, funny and caustic. I wanted him to be a fully-realized character, Plus we wanted Ralph to evolve and grow some balls. I mean, Edith from “All in the Family” just might have an affair. ‘Nough said.
What was the dynamic and collaboration process like with your film crew?
JASON: Well Mitch and I are very alike but also completely different. We worked as a team. He would be the head of a certain dept. and I would assist him. And visa versa. We learned a lot about each other and worked harder than we have ever worked! He likes to over write and I like to say one line. So, we are a perfect match in the writing department. We are the yin and yang that way. He’s so funny, deep and great with words and we’re both great with dialogue. We like when the characters are talking about crazy tangents that has nothing to do with how they actual feel, but you KNOW what they really mean and feel their frustration or anger or pain.
MITCH: What’s really interesting is Jason and I have found magic in the chaos. Everything that drives us crazy about each other, people watching always find hysterical. So as long as we keep a sense of humor about what we hate in each other and enjoy the mutual button-pushing, everything’s cool, I mean our chemistry is ridiculous. And, we share an insane desire to be seen and heard and affect people with our art.
We’re their circumstances in which you had to make difficult artistic choices or alter scenes/storylines due to factors such as accommodating individual needs/requests of participants and/or the crew, audience feedback, production limitations etc. If so, how did you compromise and make it work?
JASON: We shot on the Sony Pictures Lot. We had a few scenes we needed to change locations that did not work. But like in all movie magic it always worked out for the best!
MITCH: You plan plan plan and then throw it all out the window and leave yourself open for the happy accidents. We’d get inspired after we set up a shot and our director Carlyle would say, “Wouldn’t it be great if it was all hand-held and moving.” We’d get excited and boom, it’s a one-shot no cut-away! It’s brilliant. I also have a very strong idea of what I want and what we want. And I have no prob expressing myself. If something didn’t work, we just cut it out. Before we even shot. I cut out a whole scene. I ran it by Jason & Carlyle. I was like we don’t need it. It’s the same sh*t. We usually all agree. Jason & I are violently different. But we agree on quality, humor, character growth & surprising the audience, the characters and ourselves.
What films and which filmmakers have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
JASON: I would say I love director Shaka King and his film Judas and The Black Messiah. He came from TV and made a lotta really cool TV shows like Shrill and High Maintenance and then directed this brilliant film about Black Panther leader Fred Hampton’s murder. Also fantasy would be Martin Scorsese and Jane Champion! I was lucky enough to get to work with Nate Parker on The Birth Of A Nation in a major supporting role which was life changing. And lastly Barbra Streisand if she ever directed another film!
MITCH: Billy Wilder, Mike Nichols, Lina Wertmuller, I love everything from All About Eve to Fight Club to Mad Max to Goodfellas, I’m inspired by insanely different emotional rides. Darren Aronofsky Requiem For A Dream.