The Seder, Through The Eyes Of A Racist Slave Owner

A role in a film about the antebellum South shaped the Passover experience for gay, Jewish actor Jason Stuart

At my Mom’s Passover seder this year, a Fifth Question, with a personal touch, will occur to me: How did the liberal, openly gay son of a Holocaust survivor come to play a white, heterosexual, racist, Christian, slave-owning plantation owner in a major Hollywood film?

The answer gives me a personal, more-modern insight into the ancient Festival of Freedom.

Like many children of survivors, I was shaped by my family’s Holocaust background.
As a veteran character actor, I was blessed with a role in the groundbreaking 2016 film, “The Birth of a Nation,” the heroic, heartbreaking and violent story of Nat Turner, a slave who in 1831 led an uprising against white plantation owners.

The film is the brainchild of actor-director-producer Nate Parker.

I play Joseph Randall, a slave owner and sexual predator. An actor best known for comedy, I saw the role as a dream come true, a chance to help bring this story to the screen.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, I was born to play this part. It gave me a different perspective on the experience of slavery we discuss at the seder table. When I arrive at my mom’s apartment for dinner, my heart will be full. My recent acting experience will change the way I celebrate the holiday — while my ancestors were slaves in Egypt, I will remind myself that, on screen, I was a slave owner just before the Civil War.

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