The Color Purple actor Seyi Omooba was offered the full pay for her role after being sacked for saying homosexuality isn’t “right”, a tribunal has heard.
Omooba is suing Leicester Curve Theatre and her former agents 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.
However, during a virtual tribunal hearing on Wednesday (3 February), it was revealed that the Curve Theatre offered to “unconditionally” give Omooba her full salary for the 2019 production.
But Omooba refused the money, saying she suffered extensive career damage for her career beliefs. She is seeking the contract payment plus another £25,000 from the trust for injury to feelings and reputational damage.
Tom Coghlin QC, who is representing the theatre, said claiming the £4,309 in a tribunal amounted to an “abuse of process”, adding: “The offer remains open. It’s still there, but you’ve not engaged at all.
“Instead, you’ve chosen to bring a breach of contract claim.
“It’s to misuse the tribunal procedure, isn’t it, to bring a claim for the money that’s always been offered to you?”
Omooba replied: “No, because you, they, wanted to get away from the situation.
“In my mind, you just wanted to get away from it. You just wanted to give me money knowing full well they fired me based on my beliefs.”
Omooba was due to play the lead character Celie, who is portrayed as a lesbian in the novel The Color Purple, in a play of the same name.
However, she was dismissed after an anti-LGBT+ Facebook post from 2014 emerged shortly after she landed the role.
In it, Omooba 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.”
The Color Purple actor claims she was ‘never asked to play Celie as a lesbian’.
On Monday (1 February), the tribunal heard how Seyi 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.
The Color Purple is based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. It’s quite clear in the novel that the main character Celie is a lesbian as she develops a strong, intimate relationship with another female character.
However, Omooba’s lawyer argued the main character’s sexuality was unclear. They leaned on the fact that Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film The Color Purple does not make it clear if Celie is a lesbian as there is only one kiss between Celie and another female character.
The tribunal continues.