Chad Kimball is a practicing Christian. But these days, he shows little interest in turning the other cheek.
“Jesus never commanded us to not defend ourselves,” he told The Post. “As Christians, we are commanded to seek out justice, truth and restoration. The law gives us opportunities to do all of those things.”
After being fired from Broadway’s “Come From Away,” the Tony-nominated actor is suing the show’s producer, Kiss The Cod Broadway, and its management company, Alchemy Production Group — alleging he was let go due to his religious beliefs.
Last November, Kimball unwittingly stirred up a storm of controversy when he tweeted his unhappiness over a COVID mandate in his home state of Washington that limited religious services and forbade worshipers from singing in church.
“Respectfully, I will never allow a Governor, or anyone, to stop me from SINGING, let alone sing in worship to my God. Folks, absolute POWER corrupts ABSOLUTELY. This is not about safety. It’s about POWER. I will respectfully disobey these unlawful orders,” he tweeted in response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision.
That led to Kimball being “unlawfully terminated … because [his] religious beliefs simply made them uncomfortable,” according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Lawrence Spasojevich of the firm Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins. Now the actor is seeking remuneration of an undisclosed sum for what he maintains is discrimination in the workplace.
Spasojevich told The Post that it is about more than money. “One of the most important things is a finding that decisions made by the defendants were discriminatory, based on Chad’s religion,” the lawyer said. “It will bring vindication and hopefully some peace to Chad.”
Meanwhile, Kimball, who was a 2010 Tony nominee for his role in “Memphis,” told The Post that his religion can be a liability on Broadway: “Christians can sometimes be looked down upon in the theater world. Historically, the theater community is made up largely of marginalized members of society. Unfortunately, there’s been friction between them and the church.”
The off-stage drama began on Nov. 15 of last year. Like all Broadway productions, “Come From Away” was on hiatus at the time, temporarily shut down due to the spread of COVID-19. (Kimball himself was diagnosed with the virus in March 2020.)
Kimball and his wife, Emily, were staying with family in his hometown of Seattle.
“I grew up in a Christian household there,” said the actor, who attended Boston Conservatory before moving to Manhattan and launching his theater career. “I went to Sunday school and church every Sunday. My parents practice what they preach and we are all people of integrity.”
But as COVID surged in the state, large gatherings were called into question, leading Gov. Inslee to issue the mandate that houses of worship be limited to 25 percent capacity and that “congregational members … won’t be allowed to sing.”
The ban hit Kimball hard, especially at a time when the world seemed to be turning upside down. “I felt like it was encroaching on my spirit and encroaching on our collective conscious,” he said. “As a Christian and a prayerful person, it felt like there was someone outside of myself trying to take a part of myself from me. It is not easy for me to not sing. I am commanded to sing. I want to sing. It is my faith.”
So Kimball did what a lot of people do when politics get under their skin: He took to Twitter.
“Usually 10 people see my tweets,” Kimball said. “And I tweet carefully. There is no point in getting people riled up.”
An hour after posting, his friends began reaching out and asking if Kimball had seen what was happening online.
Suddenly, his statement which he meant for a few was being seen by many. People “who have more influence than I do, such as [actors] Billy Eichner and Colin Donnell” retweeted the post, and the Twitterverse was having its way with him. Some wished him death, others hoped he would contract COVID. Then there were those who suggested he simply exercise his vocal cords in private. “This is about keeping people safe. If you feel that strongly about it… pray and sing at home,” posted one person. Another suggested: “Go outside and sing… no one is stopping you.”
“I was being ‘ratioed,’” Kimball said. “I never had heard the term before. But it’s where you get more negative comments than likes.”
“It was obvious that a large swath of people thought I was anti-mask, anti-social distancing and anti-safety,” said Kimball. He received Twitter comments like: “Chad. You are wrong on this. Masking for your fellow human is an easy thing to do. Don’t be so selfish.”
But Kimball had no problem with mask-wearing or with limiting the number of congregants. “I just wanted to be able to sing in church while wearing a mask and being socially distanced,” he explained.
Later that day, he tweeted: “To be clear: Nobody is going maskless,” he wrote. “The overreach — in my opinion! — is not being able to sing even WITH a mask ON. Everyone will continue wearing masks. With respect and with hope and with care.”
That didn’t help.
“I was confused as to why people would be so egregiously vitriolic in their responses,” Kimball said. “Some people told me to take the [first] tweet down or apologize. But I wasn’t going to do that. I did nothing wrong.”
Still, the worst was yet to come. Days later, as things remained heated, he reached out to “Come From Away” producer Susan Frost via e-mail.
“I told Sue that I tweeted something that caused controversy,” Kimball said. She was already aware.
Having been part of the cast since the play’s California inception in 2015 — it toured four cities before landing on Broadway in March 2017 — the actor, who played stranded airline passenger Kevin T., had assumed he would have producers’ support.
“I thought it was an opportunity for [Frost] to say that my place in the show is important and that they would defend me,” said Kimball. When she didn’t offer to, “I started to wonder if I was in jeopardy.”
Frost did not respond to a request for comment.
Kimball was already uncertain of his future employment status on Jan. 6, 2021, when the Capitol was overtaken by rioters. Twelve days later, according to the complaint, Kimball was contacted by Frost with “concerns” that “events at the Capitol, Josh Hawley and the Conservative Christian movement were tied together and implied a connection between Mr. Kimball, by virtue of his faith, to the ideas and actions of the January 6, 2021 events at the US Capitol.”
The complaint maintains that Frost encouraged a “reconciliation.” But Kimball told The Post, “I never found out exactly who I was supposed to reconcile with.”
On Jan. 22, Kimball and Frost spoke again. That was when, according to the court document, she told him he was terminated, adding that there was “too much work to do” and the production needed to focus on bringing the show back together and ensure people’s safety.
In a follow-up conversation with her, Kimball expressed being in a state of “despair” and said that his dismissal had to do partly with the “religiosity” of his November tweet. The complaint alleges that Frost told him, “No one saw this coming.”
According to the court document, Kimball also had a conversation with the show’s director, Christopher Ashley. “Chris is a friend who has a brilliant theatrical mind,” said Kimball. “I asked him if the termination was because of the feelings within the cast or because of my religious beliefs. He said it was everything.”
Ashley had no comment for this story.
Currently in Los Angeles, far from the Great White Way, Kimball has auditioned for a couple of West Coast productions that failed to pan out. “I don’t think the theater world is currently fertile ground [for me],” he admitted, acknowledging that East Coast and West Coast are pretty much tied together. “I hope it might change.”
“Come From Away” reopened on Broadway without Kimball on Sept. 21, but he harbors no ill will toward the cast and crew.
“I pray for those involved with the show to have nothing but the best,” Kimball said. “The show has an important message of accepting all who come to your door regardless of what they believe. The problem is that it did not apply to me when it should have.”
He maintains his Twitter account and recently posted that a “violation of my protected civil rights” is one reason for his lawsuit.
“This situation, this thing that happened to me, it has been life-changing,” Kimball said. “I lost my purpose, I lost my job, I lost my way. It’s been hard and it’s been depressing but it hasn’t destroyed me. I have turned to God to seek his mercy and wisdom.”
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