Theatre

The Color Purple actor fired for homophobia made herself ‘commercially toxic’, tribunal told

Josh Milton February 8, 2021
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The Color Purple actor Seyi Omooba

Actor Oluwaseyi 'Seyi' Omooba. (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty)

Oluwaseyi ‘Seyi’ Omooba made herself “commercially toxic” after being sacked from a British theatre production of The Color Purple for saying homosexuality isn’t “right”, a tribunal said.

Omooba was due to play the role of Cecile, who is portrayed as a lesbian in the novel, in March 2019. However, she was dismissed after an anti-LGBT+ Facebook post from 2014 was dredged up shortly after she landed the role.

In it, it said: “I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the law of this land has made it legal it doesn’t make it right.”

Omooba is suing Leicester Curve Theatre and her former agents, Global Artists, for a total of £128,000 after she was dropped from a stage production of The Color Purple, including seeking her £4,309 fee from the theatre trust.

In the tribunal, which started last week according to The Guardian newspaper, legal representatives of the theatre condemned Omooba’s conduct.

Tom Coghlin described it as “unbelievably unprofessional” and suggested that Omooba would have left the theatre “high and dry” on opening night.

Omooba responded: “You can say that, but in so many instances people pull out and people find a way to make it work.”

Tough, my beliefs trump everything’

Christopher Milsom, on behalf of Global Artists, said Omooba admitted that her social media post put her on a “head-on collision” with the theatre and that she was “commercially toxic” for some time.

“Nonetheless, she says: ‘Tough, my beliefs trump everything’,” Milsom said.

Coghlin continued: “She realised that there was a significant risk that Celie would be required to be played as gay.

“Her evidence was to the contrary and during cross-examination, she sought to say that night was day and there was no possibility that Celie was going to be played as gay.”

It comes after Monday (1 February) when the tribunal heard how Omooba previously told her agents that she would not play a gay role.

Her lawyers argued that she was “never asked explicitly to play this character [Celie] as a lesbian” in The Color Purple.

She also admitted to the tribunal that she had not read the full script.

Related topics: employment tribunal, England, Oluwaseyi Omooba, Theatre, UK

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