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John Cameron Mitchell

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John Cameron Mitchell
Mitchell in October 2004
Born (1963-04-21) April 21, 1963 (age 61)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
EducationNorthwestern University
Occupation(s)Actor, playwright, screenwriter, film director
Years active1983–present

John Cameron Mitchell (born April 21, 1963) is an American actor, playwright, screenwriter, singer, songwriter, producer and director. He is known as the writer, director and star of the 2001 film Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which is based on the stage musical of the same name. He also portrayed the role of Joe Exotic in the Peacock limited series Joe vs. Carole in 2022.

Early years[edit]

Mitchell was born in El Paso, Texas and was raised on a variety of military bases in places like Kansas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Germany. His father, John Henderson Mitchell, was a U.S. Army major general and the U.S. Commander of West Berlin from 1984 to 1988. His mother, Joan Cameron Mitchell, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, immigrated to the United States as a young woman to become an art teacher. John had three younger brothers: Christopher Lloyd, Colin Mackenzie, and Samuel Latham. Samuel Latham Mitchell died in 1977.[1] He attended Catholic schools for most of his youth including St. Xavier High School in Junction City, Kansas, and St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, graduating from the latter in 1981. Mitchell's first stage role was as the Virgin Mary in a Nativity musical staged at a Scottish Benedictine boys' boarding school, Carlekemp Priory Prep School, when Mitchell was 11 years old. He studied theater at Northwestern University from 1981 to 1985, but did not graduate.[2]


Mitchell's first professional stage role was Huckleberry Finn in a 1985 Organic Theater adaptation at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.[3] His first New York acting role was Huck Finn in the Broadway musical Big River (1985). He originated the role of Dickon on Broadway in The Secret Garden, and appeared in the original cast of the off-Broadway musical Hello Again. He received Drama Desk nominations for both roles, and can be heard on the original cast recordings for each.[4]

He appeared in the original cast of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation (both off- and on-Broadway), and starred in Larry Kramer's off-Broadway sequel to The Normal Heart, The Destiny of Me, for which he received an Obie Award[5] and a Drama Desk nomination.[6]

Mitchell's early television work includes guest-starring roles in Daybreak, MacGyver, Head of the Class, Law & Order, The Twilight Zone, Freddy's Nightmares, The Equalizer, Our House, The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story, and The Stepford Children. He was a regular cast member on the 1996 Fox sitcom Party Girl, and was the long-running voice of Sydney, the animated kangaroo mascot of Dunkaroos snack cookies.[citation needed]

Starring and co-starring film roles include a homicidal new waver in Band of the Hand (1986), a Polish immigrant violinist in Misplaced (1990), and a teen Lothario poet in Book of Love (1990). Mitchell had a single line ("Delivery!") in Spike Lee's Girl Six (1996) as a man auditioning for a pornographic film. Mitchell is a founding member of the Drama Department Theater Company, for which he adapted and directed Tennessee Williams' Kingdom of Earth starring Cynthia Nixon and Peter Sarsgaard.[7]

Hedwig and the Angry Inch[edit]

In 1998, Mitchell wrote (along with composer Stephen Trask) and starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, an Obie Award-winning off-Broadway rock musical about a genderqueer East German rock musician chasing after an ex-lover who plagiarized her songs.[4]

Three years later, he directed and starred in the feature-film version of the play, for which he won Best Director at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Mitchell's performance was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Both the play and the film were critical hits and have spawned cult followings around the world.[8][9]

The 2014 Broadway production of Hedwig starred Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall, was directed by Michael Mayer, and won four Tony Awards, including Best Actor in a Musical (Harris), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Hall), and Best Revival of a Musical. Mitchell reprised his Hedwig performance during the run and received a 2015 Special Tony Award for his return to the role.[10]


After the success of Hedwig, Mitchell expressed an interest in writing, directing, and producing a film that incorporated explicit sex in a naturalistic and thoughtful way, without using "stars".[11] After three years of talent searches, improvisation workshops, and production, Shortbus premiered in May 2006 at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. The film garnered many awards,[12] at venues such as the Athens, Gijon, and Zurich International Film Festivals.

Rabbit Hole[edit]

He directed the 2010 film Rabbit Hole, starring Nicole Kidman (in an Oscar-nominated performance) and Aaron Eckhart, adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name about a couple dealing with the loss of their four-year-old son. Mitchell became interested in directing the project out of a personal connection to the story, having dealt with the death of his four-year-old brother as a teenager.[13] The film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival.

Other work[edit]

Mitchell was the executive producer of the 2004 film Tarnation, a documentary about the life of Jonathan Caouette, whom he met when the latter auditioned for Shortbus. Tarnation won 2004 Best Documentary from the National Society of Film Critics, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Gotham Awards. He directed videos for Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life" (featuring Secret Garden co-star Alison Fraser)[14] and the Scissor Sisters' "Filthy/Gorgeous";[15] the latter was banned from MTV Europe for its explicitly sexual content.[16] In 2012, Mitchell wrote and produced a narrative short film for Sigur Rós titled "Seraph", directed by animator Dash Shaw.[17]

Mitchell has appeared as a pundit on Politically Incorrect and various VH1 and Independent Film Channel programs. He introduced films on a show called Escape From Hollywood on IFC for two years. He wrote and directed a number of short films and commercials for Dior including Lady Grey London and L.A.dy Dior both starring Marion Cotillard and Dior Homme Sport, starring Jude Law. In 2013, He wrote and directed a fashion video for Agent Provocateur entitled "Insurrection".[18] In 2016, Mitchell appeared on Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff's tribute album to late musician David Bowie, Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff: Strung Out In Heaven (A David Bowie Tribute).[19]

Mitchell appeared as David Pressler-Goings in Seasons 2 and 3 of HBO series Girls, and as Andy Warhol in HBO's Vinyl. Mitchell can be seen in the 2016 documentary Danny Says alongside Danny Fields, Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop. He has played a character based on Milo Yiannopoulos on The Good Fight opposite Christine Baranski and as the character of Egon in season 4 of the Amazon Studios series Mozart in the Jungle opposite Gael García Bernal. In 2014, he directed an unaired pilot of Showtime series Happyish starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final role.

Mitchell's film How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman's punk-era short story of the same title starring Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, and Nicole Kidman was released by A24 in spring 2018.[20] He directed (with co-director Mark A. Burkley) Netflix's GLOW Season 2 Episode 4, "Mother of All Matches" which was deemed Number One of "The best TV episodes of 2018" by Entertainment Weekly.[21]

Mitchell was a series cast member in Hulu's Shrill, which stars Aidy Bryant and is based on Lindy West's memoir of the same title. In 2019, John released his latest musical, co-written with Bryan Weller, as a fictional podcast series entitled Anthem: Homunculus starring himself, Glenn Close, Patti Lupone, Cynthia Erivo, Denis O'Hare, Nakhane, Laurie Anderson, Alan Mandell, Marion Cotillard, Ben Foster, and Madeline Brewer presented by the Luminary Podcast Network.[22] He is a regular cast member on the podcast The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air), which is published by Night Vale Presents.[23] In 2019, John and Portland-based band Eyelids recorded Turning Time Around, an album of Lou Reed covers produced by REM's Peter Buck and released by Jealous Butcher Records as a benefit for Mitchell's mother's Alzheimer's care.

Mitchell's "distance-defying, community-built benefit album" New American Dream (Parts 1 and 2) was released September 4, 2020, including collaborations with Ezra Furman, Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff, Stephen Trask, Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu, Wynton Marsalis, Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, Catherine Russell and Leland benefitting a COVID food bank, a trans justice group and the Dr. MLK Scholarship Trust Fund.[24]

In 2022, he played Joe Exotic in Peacock's streaming series adaptation of the Wondery podcast series Joe vs. Carole. John cowrote (with Brett Every) and sang a song from the point of view of the character, "Call Me Joe," featuring Nat Wolff as Joe's husband Travis Maldonado. That same year he appeared in the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman as Hal Carter. He plays Amory (the "Demon Brother") on Apple TV+ City on Fire. He regularly tours a career retrospective concert with Amber Martin entitled Cassette Roulette as well as Black Star Symphony conceived by Donny McCaslin featuring orchestral arrangements of songs by David Bowie, an early investor in the first Hedwig production.[25] He is presently finishing Cancellation Island, a new satirical podcast series co-written with Michael Cavadias in which a character played by Holly Hunter opens a rehab for cancelled people.

Personal life[edit]

In 1985, at the age of 22, Mitchell came out as gay to his family and friends.[4] He came out publicly in a 1992 New York Times profile.[3] His subsequent writing has often explored sexuality and gender. He is a Radical Faerie. Mitchell's experiences with the group influenced the making of Shortbus.[26] Along with Shortbus stars PJ DeBoy and Paul Dawson and performance artists Amber Martin and Angela Di Carlo, he is a co-founder and DJ of the long-running New York City monthly party "Mattachine," named after the early American gay rights organization Mattachine Society.[27] In 2022, he came out as non-binary,[28] and continues to use he/him pronouns.[29]

Mitchell presently splits his home life between Manhattan and New Orleans.[30][31]


As director[edit]


Year Title Notes
2001 Hedwig and the Angry Inch Also writer and star
2006 Shortbus
2010 Rabbit Hole
2011 Lady Grey London Short film
2011 L.A.dy Dior Short film
2013 Insurrection Short film
2017 How to Talk to Girls at Parties


Year Title Notes
2013 Nurse Jackie Episode: "Luck of the Drawing"
2015 Happyish Unaired pilot
2018 GLOW Episode: "Mother of All Matches"; Co-director with Mark A. Burkley


Year Title Notes
2018 Anthem: Homunculus Scripted podcast series

As actor[edit]


Year Title Roles Notes
1986 Band of the Hand J. L.
1986 One More Saturday Night Teenager No. 2
1987 The Stepford Children Kenny TV film
1988 A Friendship in Vienna Tommi Lowberg TV film
1989 No Holds Barred Man in Audience (uncredited)
1989 Misplaced Jacek
1990 Book of Love Floyd
1990 The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story Albert the Reporter TV film
1990 Teach 109 1st Android TV short
1990 Daybreak Lennie TV film
1995 Girl 6 Rob
1996 David Searching Man with Fruit
1999 I Remember Joe Short film
2001 Hedwig and the Angry Inch Hedwig Also director and writer
2006 Shortbus Sextra (uncredited)
2016 My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea Brent Daniels Voice role in animated feature


Year Title Roles Notes
1984 American Playhouse Calvin Fitch Episode: "The Roommate"
1986 The Equalizer Ed Donahue Episode: "Unpunished Crimes"
1986 The Twilight Zone Tom Episode: "A Day in Beaumont/The Last Defender of Camelot" (segment "The Last Defender of Camelot")
1986 ABC Afterschool Specials Friend at bus stop Episode: "A Desperate Exit"
1987 MacGyver Aaron Episode: "Hell Week"
1987–1990 Head of the Class Manfred Episodes: "That'll Be the Day" and "From Hair to Eternity: Part 2"
1988 Our House Willie Gillis Episode: "Out of Step"
1988 Freddy's Nightmares Bryan Ross Episode: "It's a Miserable Life"
1993 Class of '96 Horace Episode: "See You in September"
1995 Law & Order Eddie Episode: "Pride"
1996 Party Girl Derrick 4 episodes
1997 Nothing Sacred Matt Evans Episode: "Speaking in Tongues"
2013–2014 Girls David Pressler-Goings 5 episodes
2016 Vinyl Andy Warhol 3 episodes
2017–2022 The Good Fight Felix Staples 6 episodes
2018 Mozart in the Jungle Egon 4 episodes
2019–2021 Shrill Gabe 22 episodes
2021 Santa Inc. Dr. Almonds Animated TV Series
2022 Joe vs. Carole Joe Exotic Limited series[32]
2022 The Sandman Hal 11 episodes
2023 Yellowjackets Caligula 1 episode
2023 City on Fire Amory Gould Main cast


Year Title Roles Notes
2018–present The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air) John Cameron Voice role - fictional podcast series
2019–present Anthem: Homunculus Ceann Mackay Voice role - fictional podcast series
Hot White Heist Orlov Podcast series
2021 The Cinnamon Bear Grand Wonky Podcast series

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Moore, John (June 23, 2010). ""Hedwig" creator's parents are tearing down a wall". The Denver Post. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  2. ^ "Mitchell, John Cameron (b. 1963)". GLBTQ. Archived from the original on April 18, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (November 4, 1992). "A Minimalist Actor Now Warms to Excess". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c "John Cameron Mitchell profile". glbtq.com. May 5, 2005. Archived from the original on April 18, 2007. Retrieved May 27, 2007.
  5. ^ Berson, Misha (August 3, 2001). "Man behind Hedwig captures her on film". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on December 11, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2007.
  6. ^ Parks, Louis B. (August 2, 2001). "Give him an 'Inch,' and he'll take it". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved May 27, 2007.
  7. ^ Brantley, Ben (June 26, 1996). "Redeeming A Williams Washout". The New York Times. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  8. ^ Blackwelder, Rob (June 21, 2001). "'Hedwig'-ing Out". Spliced Wire. Archived from the original on March 30, 2007. Retrieved May 27, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. ^ "John Cameron Mitchell News". Topix.net. Retrieved May 27, 2007.
  10. ^ Mark Maron interview with Mitchell here.
  11. ^ Brooks, Brian (October 1, 2006). "indieWIRE INTERVIEW: John Cameron Mitchell, director of "Shortbus"". IndieWire. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  12. ^ Shortbus - IMDb, retrieved March 13, 2020
  13. ^ Cassie Carpenter. ""Rabbit Hole" director inspired by personal tragedies". U.S. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  14. ^ "John Cameron Mitchell at Outside the Margins". Xtra. October 7, 2008. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  15. ^ Harrington, Richard (January 7, 2005). "Scissor Sisters: On the Kutting Edge". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  16. ^ Durbin, Jonathan.What Is a Scissor Sister? PAPER Magazine. April 4, 2005.
  17. ^ "Seraph". January 16, 2013. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved April 4, 2021 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ "Agent Provocateur Models Rebel, Strip Down to Lingerie in Protest". AdRants. September 16, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  19. ^ "Here Is Amanda Palmer's David Bowie Memorial Cover EP, Feat. John Cameron Mitchell and Anna Calvi". Flavorwire. February 4, 2016. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  20. ^ "John Cameron Mitchell Talks Animated 'The Ruined Cast' & Upcoming Neil Gaiman Adaptation". indieWIRE. December 10, 2010. Archived from the original on December 15, 2010. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  21. ^ "the 10 Best TV Episodes of 2018". Entertainment Weekly. December 7, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  22. ^ "The Anthem: Homunculus Listening Party". Tribeza. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  23. ^ "The Orbiting Human Circus - Team". WNYC Studios. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  24. ^ Male, Andrew (September 6, 2020). "Hedwig eats Trump: John Cameron Mitchell on his 'musical orgy' about Donald's America". The Guardian. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  25. ^ Bowie, David (October 20, 1999). "Bowie Produces Hedwig".
  26. ^ Dubowski, Sandi (Fall 2006). "Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret". Filmmaker. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2010.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  27. ^ Murphy, Tim (Fall 2010). "Tinseltown Can Wait; the Village Cannot". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  28. ^ Henderson, Taylor (March 4, 2022). "Actor John Cameron Mitchell Comes Out as Nonbinary". Pride Magazine.
  29. ^ Keeps, David A. (June 1, 2022). "The gospel according to John Cameron Mitchell". Los Angeles Magazine.
  30. ^ Davies, Madeleine (January 16, 2024). "How John Cameron Mitchell Turned His New Orleans Home Into a Queer Art Church". Dwell. Retrieved March 15, 2024.
  31. ^ Epstein, Warren (February 4, 2001). "Springs has surprisingly strong link to Sundance". The Gazette. Archived from the original on March 7, 2010. Retrieved May 27, 2007.
  32. ^ Otterson, Joe (June 24, 2021). "'Joe Exotic' Peacock Series Casts Dean Winters as Jeff Lowe". Variety. Retrieved June 24, 2021.

External links[edit]