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Jesse Tyler Ferguson ‘appalled’ after full-frontal footage of Broadway co-star Jesse Williams leaks

"Anyone who applauds or trivializes this behavior has no place in the theater."

By Will Stroude

Words: Brian Leonard; Images: Second Stage Theater (left) and Joan Marcus

Jesse Tyler Ferguson has said he’s “appalled” after full-frontal footage of his Take Me Out co-star Jesse Williams was leaked online.

Modern Family star Ferguson, 46, is currently starring opposite Williams in the Broadway revival of Richard Greenberg’s 2002 play about a gay US baseball star who faces pejudice in the locker room.

Image and video of Williams naked on stage during a recent performance were shared on social media this week, despite the theatre Hayes Theater requiring audience members to keep mobile phones locked away during the show.

On Tuesday (10 May), Ferguson took to Twitter to denounce the perpetrators and to declare that anyone who endorses such behaviour has “no place in the theater.” 

“I’m appalled by the disrespect shown to the actors of our company whose vulnerability on stage ever night is crucial to Take Me Out“, Ferguson wrote.

“Anyone who applauds or trivializes this behavior has no place in the theater which has always been a safe space for artists & audience members.”

In a follow-up tweet, he added: “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 a half hour play with big ideas, beautiful language & remarkable acting from a company of 11 actors that you will have to sit thru as well. You’ll be bored. Trust.”

Williams – who on Monday was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in Take Me Out – is yet to respond to the leak, but the company behind the production, Second Stage Theater, has forcefully condemned the leak, calling it a “gross and unacceptable violation”.

“Second Stage Theater 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,” the company said.

“We are appalled that this policy has been violated and unauthorized 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.”

Image: Second Stage Theater 

The statement continued: “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 theater 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 at the theater to enforce the policy.”

First staged at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2002 before transferring to Broadway the following year and winning the Tony Away for Best Play, Take Me Out tackles themes of homophobia, racism and classism in the US. 

A synopsis for the current revival reads: “Take Me Out follows Darren Lemming, star center fielder for the Empires, who reveals he is gay and faces a barrage of long-held unspoken prejudices.

“Facing some hostile teammates and fraught friendships, Darren is forced to contend with the challenges of being a gay person of color 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.”