Jesse Williams, best known for his role as Dr Jackson Avery in the long running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, has been nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in his Broadway debut Take Me Out.
Hours after the news of Williams’ nomination was announced, a nude video of the actor taken by a Take Me Out audience member was leaked online, with the clip quickly making the rounds on Twitter.
This is what you need to know.
What is the video that’s been leaked online?
On Monday (9 May), actor Jesse Williams’ name began trending on Twitter after a video of a scene from his Broadway performance in Take Me Out was shared online.
The scene that was taking place in the leaked video was of Williams’ full-frontal nude scene whilst his character is in the baseball team’s locker room, where much of the play takes place.
In a bid to protect Williams and his fellow actors who also appear nude, Second Stage’s Hayes Theatre requires all audience members to place their phones in sealed cases before the show, however one theatre-goer violated the rules in order to get a shot of Williams.
Patrick J Adams (Suits, Legends of Tomorrow), who stars in Take Me Out with Williams, told the New York Daily News that having audience members’ phones taken away from them has “been a magical experience, just getting everyone off their phones for two hours”.
Adams added: “It’s certainly nice to know that we’re safe onstage, being naked and not being recorded.”
The clip was released online hours after Williams was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play.
What is the play about?
Take Me Out is a Tony Award winning play, written by playwright Richard Greenberg.
It is set mostly in the locker room of a professional baseball team and stars an all-male cast.
In the play, Darren Lemming, the star mixed-race centre fielder for the fictional baseball team the Empires comes out as gay.
Second Stage, which is producing the current run of the show, says: “Facing some hostile teammates and fraught friendships, Darren is forced to contend with the challenges of being a gay person of colour within the confines of a classic American institution.
“As the Empires struggle to rally toward a championship season, the players and their fans begin to question tradition, their loyalties, and the price of victory.”
Has Jesse Williams addressed the video?
Williams hasn’t directly addressed the leaked video, however he did talk about going naked on stage on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, where he appeared alongside Take Me Out co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family, Pete the Cat).
When asked about stripping in front of an audience every night, Williams said: “Everyone around me [was] going, “Are you serious? Are you sure? Nude, nude? Naked?” and everybody makes such a big deal.
“It’s a body, once you see it, you realise it’s whatever. It’s a body.
“I just have to make it not that big of a deal.”
The episode was reportedly filmed prior to the leak.
What has the theatre industry said about the video?
After the video began to circulate online, many theatre industry professionals took to social media to condemn the recording.
Second Stage Theatre shared a statement online which said: “Second Stage Theatre has worked to ensure the privacy of the Take Me Out company by creating a phone-free space with locked phone cases at all performances.
“We are appalled that this policy has been violated and unauthorised footage of our acting company has been posted. It is deeply unfortunate that one audience member chose to disrespect the production, their fellow audience members, and, most importantly, the cast in this manner.
“Taking naked pictures of anyone without their consent is highly objectionable and can have severe legal consequences.
“Posting it on the internet is a gross and unacceptable violation of trust between the actor and audience forged in the theatre community.
“We are actively pursuing takedown requests and ask that no one participates in the distribution of these images.
“Second Stage is also adding additional staff to the theatre to enforce the policy.”
Ferguson retweeted the statement by Second Stage Theatre, and added: “I’m appalled by the disrespect shown to the actors of our company whose vulnerability on stage every night is crucial to Take Me Out.
“Anyone who applauds or trivialises this behaviour has no place in the theatre which has always been a safe space for artists & audience members.”
He followed up in another tweet which read: “And truly, if nudity is what you are coming for… you are in for a long boring night. It’s within a challenging 2 and half hour play with big ideas, beautiful language & remarkable acting from a company of 11 actors that you have to sit thru as well. You’ll be bored.”
The Actors’ Equity Association has also spoken out against the audience member that filmed the video of Williams.
Kate Shindle, president of the Actors’ Equity Association, said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the creation and distribution of photographs and videos of our members during a nude scene.
“As actors, we regularly agree to be vulnerable onstage in order to tell difficult and challenging stories. This does not mean that we agree to have those vulnerable moments widely shared by anyone who feels like sneaking a recording device into the theatre.
“Whoever did this knew not only that they were filming actors without their consent, but also that they were explicitly violating the theatre’s prohibition on recording and distribution.
“At every performance, there is a mutual understanding between the audience and the performers that we are sharing an experience limited to this time and place; that trust makes it possible for us to be exposed both emotionally and physically.
“Trampling on this agreement by capturing and distributing these photographs and videos is both sexual harassment and an appalling breach of consent.
“It is a violation that impedes our collective ability to tell stories with boldness and bravery."