Author Alice Walker says it would be a “betrayal” for a homophobic actress to play the role of Celie Johnson in a musical adaptation of Walker’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Color Purple.
In a post by Purple producer Scott Sanders, he shares Walker’s views on the initial casting Oluwaseyi Omooba. Omooba was set to portray Celie in a production of the musical that ran earlier this year at the Leicester Curve and then the Birmingham Hippodrome in England, was fired from the show after actor Aaron Lee Lambert shared a 2014 Facebook post in which Omooba called homosexuality a sin, saying it’s “legal” but not “right,” she also stated her belief that people are not born gay.
@Seyiomooba Do you still stand by this post? Or are you happy to remain a hypocrite? Seeing as you’ve now been announced to be playing an LGBTQ character, I think you owe your LGBTQ peers an explanation. Immediately. pic.twitter.com/GK2xbzZYgy
— Aaron Lee Lambert (@aleelambert) March 15, 2019
Omooba said she plans to sue the Leicester Curve over her firing and the Global Artists Agency for dropping her as a client, reported Towleroad. The daughter of a prominent British anti-LGBTQ activist, Omooba contends she has suffered discrimination because of her Christian beliefs.
Walker had been silent on the matter until last week, when she sent a letter to Color Purple producer Sanders and authorized him to share it on Facebook. She expressed “heartfelt compassion” for Omooba, then explained how she came to create Celie.
Celie “is based on the life of my grandmother, Rachel, a kind and loving woman brutally abused by my grandfather. … It is safe to say, after a frightful life serving and obeying abusive men, who raped in place of ‘making love,’ my grandmother, like Celie, was not attracted to men,” Walker wrote.
“She was, in fact, very drawn to my grandfather’s lover, a beautiful woman who was kind to her, the only grown person who ever seemed to notice how remarkable and creative she was. In giving Celie the love of this woman, in every way love can be expressed, I was clear in my intention to demonstrate that she too, like all of us, deserved to be seen, appreciated, and deeply loved by someone who saw her as whole and worthy.”
Walker, who has had relationships with both men and women, said she believes “sexual love can be extraordinarily holy, whoever might be engaging in it,” and that she urges readers to question the scriptures of all religions. “Love, however it may be expressed, is to be honored and welcomed into the light of our common survival as a consciously human, race.”
“Playing the role of ‘Celie’ while not believing in her right to be loved, or to express her love in any way she chooses, would be a betrayal of women’s right to be free,” she concluded. “As an elder, I urge all of us to think carefully about what I am saying, even as you, Oluwaseyi Omooba, sue the theatre company for voiding your contract. This is just an episode in your life; your life, your work, and your growth, will continue, in the real world. A world we must make safe for women and children, female and male. And the greatest freedom of all is the freedom to be your authentic self.”