Christian actress sacked for 'anti-gay post' wouldn't have played 'lesbian' theatre role

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·2-min read
Omooba had been due to perform at the Birmingham Hippodrome. (Google Maps)
Seyi Omooba had been due to perform at the Birmingham Hippodrome. (Google Maps)

A Christian actress who was sacked after making alleged homophobic remarks online would not have played the character she was fired from, a tribunal has heard.

Seyi Omooba, 26, had been slated for the role of Celie in the musical The Color Purple at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 2019 before being sacked.

Celie is often read as having a lesbian relationship but her sexuality is ambiguous, Omooba’s lawyers said on Monday.

“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,” the 2014 Facebook post said.

She is suing the Leicester Theatre Trust and her agents Michael Garrett Associates Ltd for around £128,000 over her dismissal, citing religious discrimination and breach of contract.

However, lawyers for the Leicester Theatre Trust argued she would not have played the role anyway.

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A virtual Central London Employment Tribunal hearing was told on Monday that Omooba had told her agents she would not play a gay character, did not understand Celie was a lesbian and was not explicitly told she would play a gay role.

Pavel Stroilov, for Omooba, said the “best known interpretation” of the story is the 1985 Steven Spielberg film version starring Danny Glover and Whoopi Goldberg.

“In the film the lesbian theme is not present at all, there is one kiss between the female characters which can be interpreted in all sorts of ways,” Stroilov said.

“It is in no way obvious and was never made clear to the claimant that she was expected to play a lesbian character.”

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The case is being heard by the London Central Employment Tribunal. (Google Maps)
The case is being heard by the London Central Employment Tribunal. (Google Maps)

He said it would be “absurd” to suggest an actor should ask their employer if they intended to interpret the play differently than Spielberg.

The film and the musical are based on the Pulitzer prize-winning novel of the same name, written by Alice Walker in 1982.

However, Tom Coghlin QC, for the Leicester Theatre Trust, said Omooba’s stance amounted to a breach of contract.

“The role that she complains about being dismissed from is one that she would have refused to play in any event,” he said.

“Her choice was to resign or be dismissed and she chose to be dismissed.

“We say quite simply that the claimant took the role of Celie when she knew or should have realised there was at least a significant likelihood that she would refuse to play that role.”

He said the musical production “is not the film” and are different works with a common source – the novel.

The tribunal continues.

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