Jesse Williams Gets Honest About How He Felt After Nude Broadway Leak, Definitely Uses The Word 'Penetration'

Jesse Williams on Grey's Anatomy
(Image credit: ABC)

Take Me Out has been receiving plenty of attention since the revival starring Jesse Williams debuted on Broadway. It opened to rave reviews, which led to the production’s run being extended and earned Tony Award nominations for three of its actors (including Williams) and an overall nod for Best Revival of a Play. Unfortunately, some of the publicity has come from nude footage of the former Grey’s Anatomy actor that was illegally taken during a performance and leaked on social media. The actor recently opened up about the leak, using an interesting word — "penetration" — when talking about how he felt.

While Jesse Williams had previously talked about the unexpected reaction he got from audiences when he appeared naked on stage as Darren Lemming in the production, he got a reaction he never asked for when nude photos and video were shared online. Fans were extremely complimentary — and not at all subtle, as even the co-hosts of The View had to be cooled off — but that’s not the point. The actor said he’s still processing how he feels about that footage being shared without his consent. While he’s tried to stay unaffected, he told THR that he’s bothered when he thinks about the person who did it:

But then also you think about what actually happened, and what it took [from the perpetrator]: You walked in and agreed to put your phones away, and you agreed that you would not film what we were doing — it’s a private, sacred space where we’re doing something — and you violated that, and you didn’t just violate it, you violated it and then said, ‘Fuck it, let me put it on the Internet for the world’ — so that’s not good.

It sounds like Jesse Williams has given this a lot of thought, and not only did the person who recorded the footage knowingly break multiple rules, they violated the actors in a sacred space — where they have to be vulnerable — and then made the decision to share that content with the world without Williams’ permission. He knows how important his job is, though, and he’s vowed not to let the incident affect his performance, for the sake of people who have traveled from all over the world to see it. He continued:

So I have to be of two hearts about it: One is it’s not the end of the world, I have to do a terrific show eight times this week, and I can’t let it pervert or seep into that experience. It’s not me on stage, it’s the character, and I’m looking at my scene partner, and we’re in a different world; there’s no penetration — that’s a really poor choice of words here. [laughs] So it’s unfortunate, but whatever. It has not affected the performance. But it certainly improved ticket sales.

At least he acknowledged his choice of word there! It’s good to hear that Jesse Williams definitely has a sense of humor about the situation, even as he points out how wrong it was for those photos to be released. And, hey, if it improved ticket sales, that's a pretty decent silver lining.

In non-Broadway news, Jesse Williams returned to Grey’s Anatomy for the Season 18 finale, where he made social media fans happy for a whole different reason — his character Jackson Avery had romantically reunited with Sarah Drew’s April Kepner! Viewers are still hoping for the two actors to someday star in their own Japril spinoff, and Drew actually has a pretty cool idea for how to do it. Let’s make this happen, okay? While we wait, be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what shows are premiering soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.