A short film, written and directed by Hongyu Li, Hank tells the story of a long-term couple navigating the decision and consequences of moving towards an open relationship.
Jason Stuart plays Hank. I caught up with Stuart for a behind-the-scenes look at the film.
What attracted you to this project?
To be able to play a character that I’ve never played before. Folks think that just because it’s a gay character, they’re all the same. This role was a challenge because Hank had this very quiet depth that made me want to explore. Hank is very different from the strong, masculine characters that I’ve played of late – like the racist plantation owner in The Birth of a Nation, or the controlling private investor in Immortal. Hank had a softer perspective, I haven’t explored that in a while. He was more the caretaker type, and desperately needed an Al-Anon meeting.
Did you feel any personal connection with the character of Hank?
I’d just broken up with a man who I thought was ‘the one’. My heart had been broken big-time, so I had all these emotions to put into this role. Plus, I got to eat whatever I wanted during the shoot because the director wanted me chubby.
In real life, my guy went back to his ex. I was feeling hopeless, that I would never find a good man. In the film, Hank was feeling the same loss.
Do you think that the experience of gay men in Los Angeles is different to other parts of the world, or is Hank’s story fairly universal?
I think that some gay men of a certain age struggle with wanting an open relationship. For me, the dynamic of having careers that might take you out of town for weeks on end is lonely – things happen. My goal is to have my one-and-only.
To be honest, I’d never break up with a guy I love if he got a happy ending in a hotel out of town. Honesty and communication is the key for me in a marriage.
Hopefully, some day, a good man will walk into my life.
What does Hank tell us about the challenges that gay men are navigating in relationships?
Sometimes you start a relationship with someone for a need. I believe that a man should be an added piece of your life – something that adds to what you already are, not a fixer-upper that you want to change, or something that you need so bad that you’ll settle for less than you deserve.
What do you hope that people feel when watching Hank?
That they’re not alone, that they’re part of a community. That men over 50 are still sexual and hot and have complex relationships.
Hopefully, great filmmakers will see me in Hank and want to cast me in another wonderful role that brings me as much joy as I had with this one. I’m an actor, and an actor acts.
I heard this story – I’m not sure if it’s true, but it really spoke to me. A friend of Barbra Streisand asked if she would meet her niece who wanted to be an actress. The young girl asked Barbra – “Should I be an actress?”. Barbra said – “No. If you have to ask, no. It has to be a need that’s a part of your soul. Not a should or a want.”
For me, being an actor is my passion. It’s been my longest relationship! It’s the thing that has given me the most evidence that I have accomplished something bigger than I am. To be able to make anther human feel less alone or to laugh in a movie theatre or on TV or a stage show – that has been my greatest achievement.