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Theatre

Color Purple actor fired for homophobia ordered to pay £300,000 court costs after losing legal battle

Emma Powys Maurice March 30, 2021
The Color Purple actor Seyi Omooba

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

The Color Purple actor Seyi Omooba has been ordered to pay over £300,000 in court costs after losing a lengthy legal battle over her anti-LGBT+ views.

Omooba lost a religious discrimination tribunal case she raised after she was fired from a production of The Color Purple over a homophobic Facebook post.

Following the ruling, Curve Leicester announced on Tuesday (30 March) that it was “pleased” the employment tribunal had instructed Omooba to pay all legal expenses for the theatre and her former agents, Global Artists.

According to The Stage, the total bill amounts to a hefty £313,195.

“We have always felt the case lacked any merit from the outset, but Seyi Omooba and her legal team continued to disregard and chose to take our theatre to court regardless of the facts,” Curve Leicester said in a statement.

The theatre claimed the tribunal process had been used as part of a wider campaign by the religious non-profit Christian Concern, which represented Omooba, resulting in “significant human and financial cost” to Curve and Global Artists, who “have had to suffer inaccurate and false reporting on this case”. Christian Concern has been contacted for comment.

The statement welcomed the tribunal’s finding that Omooba’s team was “wrong to promote and use a weak case, especially when, as in the publicity before and after the hearing, overlooking and misstating the facts in the claimant’s own evidence”.

Seyi Omooba didn’t believe The Color Purple character to be a lesbian

Seyi Omooba sued for religious discrimination in 2019 when she was dropped from The Color Purple, a seminal LGBT+ play about a sexual abuse survivor who regains her confidence after falling for another woman.

She was deemed inappropriate for the lead role of Celie after a fellow actor uncovered a lengthy anti-gay Facebook post she’d written in 2014.

“I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the laws of this land has made it legal doesn’t mean its [sic] right,” she posted at the time.

Omooba sued the theatre for her original £4,309 full salary for the production, plus a further £25,000 for injury to feelings and reputational damages. She also sued her former agency for £98,752.

Representatives for the theatre said Omooba’s stance on homosexuality constituted a “repudiatory breach of contract” and her dismissal was therefore not “unwanted conduct”.

The actor would have left the theatre “high and dry” on opening night,” they added, so she was dismissed “to save the production”.

It emerged during the hearings that Omooba had previously told her agents she would refuse to play any role if she thought the character was gay.

Omooba’s lawyers attempted to argue that she was able to star in the production because Celie’s sexuality is ambiguous, and she didn’t understand Celie to be a lesbian as she wasn’t explicitly told she would have to play a gay role.

This argument was undermined when the actor later admitted she’d never even read the script for The Color Purple.

The employment tribunal dismissed Omooba’s demands for compensation as it said: “There is no financial loss because she would not have played the part.”

 

 

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