Curtain Down

A UK court put the smackdown on homophobic ‘Color Purple’ actress

Seyi Omooba. Via YouTube

Seyi Omooba, the actress fired from a UK revival of The Color Purple over homophobic social media posts just suffered a major loss in a UK court. A judicial panel known as the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled against Omooba in a wrongful termination claim.

Omooba had filed the lawsuit following her termination from the Leicester Theatre Trust’s revival of the stage musical version of The Color Purple in 2019. The producers had sacked Omooba following the resurfacing of a Facebook post from 2014 in which she decried LGBTQ people as immoral. The producers felt that casting a homophobic actress as the character of Celie, a lesbian, would not suit the production. The theatre also offered to pay Omooba her full salary, but she refused. The actress then filed suit, claiming that her career had collapsed from the negative backlash. In court, Omooba sought £4,309 from the theatre plus a further £25,000 for damages to her career.

Related: Fired, homophobic ‘Color Purple’ actress sues; claims she’d never play a gay character

The BBC reports that a judicial tribunal found Omooba’s case unconvincing, and on February 17 rejected her claims of discrimination, harassment and breach of contract.

“In the view of the tribunal,” the court wrote in its opinion, “Mr. Stafford [Chris Stafford, chief executive of Leicester Theatre Trust] did not have the purpose of violating the claimant’s dignity or creating an intimidating or humiliating environment for her. His purpose was to save the production.”

“There is no financial loss because she would not have played the part,” the court said. “There is no loss of opportunity to enhance her reputation by performing, because she would not have played the part. If there is damage to her reputation, it was not caused by being dropped from the production but by an unconnected person’s tweeting… of her Facebook post and the outcry resulting from that.”

Attorneys for Omooba expressed their disappointment for the ruling, but have not ruled out options for appeal.

In her original Facebook post–later circulated on Twitter by actor Aaron Lee Lambert–Omooba expressed her disapproval of homosexuality, writing: “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 doesn’t mean its right.” Following the controversy over her firing, it also came to light that her father, pastor Adegboyega Omooba, advocates for gay conversion therapy.

Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple debuted on Broadway in 2005, and would run for three years. The show also received 11 Tony Award nominations, winning one.  A 2015 Broadway revival of the show won two Tony Awards in 2015, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actress for future Oscar-nominee Cynthia Erivo.