'Romy and Michele' Musical Star Claims She Was Fired for Being Pregnant: 'My Worst Fear'

"I think that the narrative completely needs to change around pregnant women about what we can and can't do," Broadway actress Cortney Wolfson tells PEOPLE

Cortney Wolfson
Photo: Cortney Wolfson/Instagram

Actress Cortney Wolfson has claimed that she was "fired" from a starring role in a Broadway-bound stage adaptation of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion because she was pregnant.

On Friday, Wolfson penned a lengthy letter, in which she detailed that she was ready to talk about the situation, which took place in 2018. Via Twitter and Instagram, Wolfson — who starred as Romy in the world-premiere production of the musical in Seattle — wrote, "I'd like to talk about mothers in this business."

Noting that she is an actor and a mom to son Ziggy, whom she described as "a wild, silly and exuberant" 2½-year-old boy, Wolfson said she "wanted to be transparent when it came to my career. No hiding, no concealing, no shame."

Writing that she believed it was her "right to choose to bring a child into this world and also have my job protected," the actress claimed, "that right was taken from me in 2018 when I was fired from my job, Romy & Michele: The Musical, for being pregnant."

Looking back, Wolfson wrote that she "said nothing back then" as she was "anxious and scared for my pregnancy, for the health of my unborn son, and for my own mental health."

"I sat in a ball, six months pregnant and hysterical, as my husband held me — worried for his wife, worried for his baby," she continued.

Adding that she "didn't advocate for myself in 2018 because I didn't know how," Wolfson said she was "worried what people would think, what my agents would think, what Broadway would think if I spoke out about what happened to me."

"My journey with the show has now come to a close, so I'd like to tell my story," she wrote.

When she and her husband, fellow Broadway actor Curtis Holbrook, decided they wanted to expand their family, Wolfson said she reached out to her director "for guidance on the show's timeline" and to make sure that her plans to have a child aligned with the show's planned run on Broadway.

Wolfson said that director Kristin Hanggi gave her blessing, allegedly writing in an email, "[Our lead producer] said that we will be targeting a [developmental] reading in NYC in late Feb or early March ... and its all good if you are pregnant then," adding a smiley face at the end of her email.

After "several months of trying," as Wolfson wrote, she and her husband suffered from an early miscarriage before they became pregnant with their son Ziggy the following month.

When her first trimester was complete, Wolfson said that she emailed her director and producer with the news that she was expecting, as well as her due date — but that was when things went awry.

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Per Wolfson's social media statement, the actress said that her producer initially "responded with his congratulations" and allegedly wrote that he was "sure" they could figure out how to feature her while pregnant.

But, as Wolfson explained, she received a call from the show's director allegedly telling her that she "would be replaced" due to her pregnancy.

"I was confused. Hadn't I just been told this was a perfect time to be pregnant? I collapsed at my computer as I read my producer's response to my agents," she wrote, adding that she was told they could not "showcase the show to maximum effect with [Cortney] in that condition."

"My worst fear had just come true: my pregnancy was a 'condition.' The career-changing role I'd created was being taken from me, and my choice to pursue a family was the cause," Wolfson added, noting she "felt shame for questioning my pregnancy, embarrassment for not being good enough, and anger at my complete lack of choices."

She added, "I was in a tailspin, trying to remain calm for the sake of my unborn child, all the while the feeling like my career might be ending."

On Sunday, Wolfson told PEOPLE she was "truly, utterly stunned, shocked, very confused, very, very upset [and] very unwell in that moment," adding that she was made to believe she would move forward with the show following closing night in Seattle.

As the show continued on its path to Broadway, Wolfson was asked back to participate in a Los Angeles presentation but ultimately told she would not move forward thereafter, as the show was "looking for celebrities to replace me," she wrote in her post.

Romy and Michele producers provided PEOPLE with the following statement when reached for comment.

"We've always been supportive of Cortney and her desire to have a family. There were no definitive plans for a production of Romy and Michele to take place in 2018. The next time a reading for this production took place was in February 2020 in LA and Cortney was involved. It was also planned that Cortney would be involved in the reading that would take place in New York in March of 2020, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most recently, a workshop for the production took place in New York where the casting was updated to bring more diversity to the production. We've always been appreciative of her involvement and wish her nothing but the best."

Wolfson has since questioned whether or not her pregnancy was the true cause for her dismissal, but tells PEOPLE that her choice to start a family should never have been part of the conversation.

"My question is, 'Was my pregnancy the reason that they were looking elsewhere in the first place, or was it just a really easy excuse because they had someone who looked pregnant in front of them?' " she asks. "I think that the narrative completely needs to change around pregnant women about what we can and can't do, and the only person who knows what they can or can't do is that pregnant person."

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Around the time she claims she was fired due to her pregnancy, Wolfson tells PEOPLE she was still auditioning.

"I had an audition for Elphaba in Wicked, almost eight months pregnant — in person, live in action," she explains. "There was nothing physical that I couldn't accomplish [in Romy and Michele] because I had a baby in my belly, there was nothing that constituted my inability to perform. I could have done it. I explained that to them, and I got nothing back other than they couldn't showcase the show to its full capacity with me looking like a pregnant person."

Since she went public with her account, Wolfson tells PEOPLE, mothers in the theater industry have offered their support. "The response has been overwhelming," she says. "What I found the most interesting is most of these people still haven't told their stories because they're still afraid of being fired. It's very similar to the situation I was in. I felt like I couldn't speak because even though I had been fired for being pregnant, I have always dreamed about starring on Broadway, and I wanted this role, and I wanted to be a part of the show so badly that I was willing to forfeit my story and the truth because there was still that ounce of hope that at the end of the day, maybe it would all be a bad dream, and I would still get to do it."

She adds, "It's interesting to hear from all these moms who are supportive and lifting me up and also saying, 'We emphasize because we've been there.' That was really, really powerful to hear the other women who felt like they've still haven't been able to tell their story yet."

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