Jesse Williams addresses Broadway nude scene leak: ‘Consent is important’

NEW YORK — Jesse Williams vowed not to be discouraged after leaked videos and images of his nude onstage scene in the Broadway play “Take Me Out” were posted online.

“I don’t mind. Our job is to go out every night, no matter what,” Williams told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The leaked videos and images sparked outrage from the show’s producers and the union representing actors and stage managers.

“I’m not really concerned about it. I can’t sweat that. We must continue to advocate for ourselves. And it’s great to see a community pull back and make it clear what we do and don’t stand for,” Williams said. “Consent is important, I thought. So let’s keep that in mind universally.”

Jesse Williams vowed not to be discouraged after leaked videos and images of his nude onstage scene in the Broadway play “Take Me Out” were put online.

Jesse Williams vowed not to be discouraged after leaked videos and images of his nude onstage scene in the Broadway play “Take Me Out” were posted online.

Original story: ‘Everybody makes such a big deal’: Tony nominee Jesse Williams talks naked on Broadway

Williams plays queer baseball player Darren Lemming, who struggles with the aftermath of his coming out, in Richard Greenberg’s “Take Me Out” revival.

“Take Me Out” won a Tony Award for Best Play on First Performance in 2003. Williams could score another Tony for the Broadway play in 2022. The star of “Grey’s Anatomy” received a Tony nomination Monday for Best Performance by a protagonist in a play. He’s up against his “Take Me Out” co-stars Ferguson and Michael Oberholtzer in the same category.

The incident took place at the Hayes Theater which is owned by Second Stage Theater which produces the revival “Take Me Out”. Despite the New York City venue’s policy requiring the use of Yondr bags to lock customers’ phones, apparently one person snuck in during the production of the Tony Award-nominated show. On Monday evening, videos and images of Williams began circulating online.

Producers said they would strengthen security in the wake of the violation.

“Theatre is a sacred space, and not everyone understands that. Everyone doesn’t necessarily respect that in a way they might or might want to,” Williams said.

Williams says he was approached to do the play’s revival while starring in the long-running medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” but it wasn’t until after reading the script that he realized it featured nudity.

“If someone had just said that it is (a) playing with nudity, it would have been worded differently. But the nudity is fair. It is logical. It’s not lustful. It serves the story. It puts the audience in an interesting position to empathize with the characters,” Williams said.

The leaked video is the latest incident in which an artist’s privacy or well-being has been compromised, following Will Smith’s Oscar blow to Chris Rock and when Dave Chapelle was assaulted by a man at the Hollywood Bowl.

This image released by Polk & Co.  shows Jesse Tyler Ferguson, left, and Jesse Williams during a performance of the Broadway revival of the baseball-themed

This image, released by Polk & Co., shows Jesse Tyler Ferguson, left, and Jesse Williams during a performance of the Broadway revival of the baseball-themed “Take Me Out” in New York.

One of Williams’ co-stars, Michael Oberholtzer, who also earned a Tony nomination on Monday, called the incident “very disappointing.”

“People feel that they can say and do things because they pay an entrance fee or because they are members or whatever, that certain behavior is allowed. But that’s not it. It’s a violation of people’s consent,” Oberholtzer said.

Fellow “Take Me Out” co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, as well as Second Stage Theater and the Actors’ Equity Association also condemned the audience member who shot the scene.

Cast members speak: Jesse Tyler Ferguson says he is ‘shocked’ by Jesse Williams leaking naked in ‘Take Me Out’

On Tuesday, Ferguson reprimanded the audience for their “disrespect” for the show’s cast and crew. “I am appalled at the lack of respect for our company’s actors whose vulnerability on stage (every) night is crucial to ‘Take Me Out’,” Ferguson wrote on Twitter.

He continued, “Anyone who applauds or downplays this behavior has no place in the theater, which has always been a safe place for performers and audience members.”

The “Modern Family” star also noted that if nudity is the only reason people would come to the show, “you’re in for a boring night.” He joked that audience members would also have to endure “big ideas, beautiful language and remarkable acting”.

Second Stage Theater released a similar statement Tuesday, noting that they are working to remove the video from various platforms and that they will circulate more staff during the performances to ensure no further footage is taken.

“It’s very unfortunate that an audience member has chosen to disrespect the production, their fellow audience members and, most importantly, the cast in this way,” the statement said.

“Taking nude photos of someone without their consent is highly objectionable and can have serious legal consequences. Posting it on the internet is a gross and unacceptable violation of trust between the actor and the audience in the theater community.”

Actors’ Equity Association, a national union representing actors and stage managers involved in live theater, also released a statement Tuesday calling it “both sexual harassment and an attractive violation of consent.”

Contributors: Naledi Ushe, USA TODAY; John Carucci, The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jesse Williams on ‘Take Me Out’ Broadway Nude Leak

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