'Moulin Rouge!' Tony Winner Karen Olivo on Why They Left Show: 'Something Really Shifted in Me'

“The commercial theater system itself is something I can’t endorse,” said Olivo in a new interview with the Los Angeles Times 

Karen Olivo
Karen Olivo. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty

Karen Olivo is revealing what caused them to leave Broadway's Moulin Rouge! after speaking up about abuse allegations involving theater and film producer Scott Rudin.

Olivo, 45, spoke to the Los Angeles Times in a story published on Friday about leaving their starring role as Satine in the musical after what they felt was the theater community's lack of meaningful response about the Rudin allegations.

"There was the complete and utter silence from my industry. I'm a survivor of assault and sexual abuse, and I was like, I'm not going to say yes to an industry that can't stand up for survivors," Olivo told the newspaper. "These are people from inside our industry, who were courageous enough to speak up! Something really shifted in me."

In April, Rudin was accused by several former employees of having violent outbursts while working for him and his production company, Scott Rudin Productions. At the time, Rudin's rep did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. No charges are known to have been filed against him.

Another lead-up to them quitting the Broadway show, Olivo said, was when they "went to a building, I did something in good faith, and there was no one checking up on us" during the pandemic.

Aaron Tveit and Karen Olivo in Moulin Rogue.
Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit in Moulin Rouge!. Matthew Murphy 2019

"It's another instance of how the industry doesn't take care of its own, even though we're "family," they continued. "It only shows up when the cameras are on or when it's time to fundraise. In the year of community organizing during the shutdown, I realized I can actually help my industry in a different way, by caring about the people who are suffering in silence, because we can't go back to the way it was."

Olivo said that when it came time to reopen Broadway and "make offers to go back" they were "offered the same amount of money and the same amount of rehearsal time."

"This is the hardest show I've ever done," said Olivo, who has previously starred in Hamilton, In the Heights and West Side Story. "I was like, who's gonna remount it in six weeks? This robot that you built to look like me? I can't. I was like, you don't really mean you want to take care of us. You want to get us to the stage so that you can keep making money or start to make some of the money that you lost. I was like, I'm good. I'm out."

They added, "There's no malice at all toward the cast or crew, and Natalie Mendoza, who is taking over for Satine, is a gorgeous light of a human being. But the commercial theater system itself is something I can't endorse."

<a href="https://people.com/tag/nicole-kidman/" data-inlink="true">Nicole Kidman</a> and Karen Olivo
(L-R) Nicole Kidman and Karen Olivo. Bruce Glikas/WireImage

Olivo said they would not be attending or watching the 74th Tony Awards, airing this Sunday, saying, "What can it do for me? I think it'll just be a source of pain."

"I'm sure there are plenty of great performances and especially for people who were just nominated and really want to believe in that, this is gonna be the pinnacle of everything," they added. "But I think I'm going to be nice to myself and let it go and give myself some peace."

Also opening this weekend is Moulin Rouge! an even that has made this week "really hard" for Olivo.

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"My husband said, "You broke up with your boyfriend, and now he's dating someone else. And you just you have to kind of watch them and now they're engaged, and they're gonna get married." It's harder than I thought," they admitted. "Because at my core, it is the medium that I love. I'm trying to be really graceful with myself this week."

As for whether they will ever return to performing in commercial theater or Broadway, Olivo is keeping an open mind.

"I can't say that I won't work in New York or in commercial theater ever again," they told the Times. "If I do, you'll know I've vetted it properly and I'm working with people that I trust. If I'm stepping onstage, it's going to be for a much bigger picture."

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