Jesse Williams

After naked photographs and footage of the star of Broadway’s Take Me Out began circulating online late Monday night, Jesse Williams, fresh off his first Tony nomination, became a trending topic. The video went viral on Twitter only hours after he was nominated for a Tony Award for best performance by a featured actor in a play.

Williams plays a successful gay baseball player who confronts personal and professional consequences after coming out at the height of his career. The Grey’s Anatomy alum is nude at one point in the show, which “terrified” Williams at first. He told Page Six, “But then I observed that that was what I prayed God for.” “I requested that I be afraid. I asked to do something risky and difficult that required me to earn it and made me feel alive rather than comfy.”

The Hayes Theater at Second Stage mandates all ticket holders to place their phones in sealed Yondr cases before the show to safeguard Williams and the play’s other nude actors from nosy audience members. According to the theater’s website, guests may keep their phones as long as they are locked “out of respect and support for our actors and to create a phone-free area.”

Williams discussed the nudity during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen on Monday, which was purportedly taped before the leak. “A non-response is a really intriguing reaction,” Williams commented when questioned about the audience’s reaction to his nudity. You’re aware of the silence. It creates a lot of anxiety.” “I don’t like any of it,” the actor concluded. I’ve learned in my few minutes at the theatre, which is all new to me, that trying to read into anything only adds to my insecurity.” “I won’t be afraid of anything after this [experience], that’s for sure,” Williams told Cohen.

The New York Daily News quoted Patrick J. Adams, who plays one of Williams’ teammates, as saying that taking phones from the crowd was “a fantastic experience, simply getting everyone off their phone for two hours.” Adams also mentioned the comfort of mind that comes with stowing electronics. “It’s great to know that we’re not being videotaped while we’re naked onstage,” he remarked.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Michael Oberholtzer, and Williams won four Tony nominations for Take Me Out on Monday, including best revival of a play and best-featured-actor-in-a-play.

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