Among other things, Richie Jackson is an award-winning Broadway, television, and film producer who most recently produced the Tony Award-nominated Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song on Broadway. He executive-produced Showtime’s Nurse Jackie (Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for “Best Comedy Series”) and co-executive produced the film Shortbus, written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell.
He recently wrote a book that just hit the shelves: Gay Like Me: A Father Writes to His Son.
I couldn’t wait to talk to Richie about happiness, habits, and creativity.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?
Richie: The simple activity or habit of mine that consistently makes me happier, healthier, more productive and more creative is reading. I had, for the entirety of my adult life, carved out the peaceful dawn hour of 5 am to read a book. I chose this time because it is before my children and husband are awake and the busy business of getting everyone breakfast and ready for their day begins. This ritual starts my day immersed in words, creativity and imagination. It’s the most gentle and artful way to ease into my day and by 6:30 am I have already accomplished something. I have already taken time to do something for myself. I prioritized an activity that isn’t about buying or selling, not about winning. It is purely for my own happiness and personal enrichment.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
What I have learned about happiness that I didn’t know when I was 18 is it isn’t just a default emotion. It’s not passive. In order to be happy, it takes purpose. It requires work. It takes making a decision daily to be happy. Challenges and obstacles, tragedy and grief will come and detour that happiness. But if you don’t keep a careful eye on it, you will forget to reset your default to happy.
What aspect of your book has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?
The aspect of my book that has surprised my readers most is that I believe being gay is a gift and that I wanted my son to be gay. Being gay is the best thing about me, it is the most important thing about me. It is the blessing of my life. How could I not want that for my son?
Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)
The motto my husband and I live by is “Yes and…” Our wedding vows included “We pledge to expand the canvas of our lives.” When experiences and opportunities come our way we try to start with “Yes” so that we can expand our lives and our own definition of ourselves.
Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?
The book that changed my life was Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran. It was the very first gay novel I ever read, the first novel written for us that was about us. It’s elegant, poetic prose elevated my urges to worthiness. It taught me how to be gay, it showed me that my otherness was not a defect rather it was freedom and potential.