In an interview with the UK’s Sky News, Whelan, who also appears in the second season of The Crown, confessed that she was afraid to reveal to her pregnancy during the filming of the Netflix series.
"I was five months pregnant when I was doing [The Crown] and I didn't tell them because I was too scared," she said to Sky News. "See this is the thing, of women in film and TV, I was too scared to tell them at the time I was pregnant in case I lost the job, and of course when I did tell them they were so celebratory," she added.
It is lucky that things ended well for Whelan. However, it’s easy to understand her trepidation. The decision to drop women actors from projects after they’ve become pregnant — whether leading a film or starring in lesser roles — isn’t uncommon. Actress Hilary Duff was completely dropped from the film The Story of Bonnie and Clyde in 2011 due to pregnancy. Some outlets reported that she was even paid a hefty severance. In 2015 Zoe Saldana was almost dropped from some big name projects and had a difficult time getting the studios she was shooting for to cover childcare. In an older, but groundbreaking, case in 1997, actress Hunter Tylo was set to star in the hit ‘90s series, Melrose Place, but was promptly fired after revealing that she was pregnant. She sued them for $2.5 million and was awarded $5 million.
As for Whelan, after her breakout role in Game Of Thrones, it’s clear she’s determined to play her cards right with The Crown, but not at the cost of being a mom. "I think women are quite fearful of 'if I have a baby it's going to change my career or it won't fit in anymore' and actually if you're just really proud of it and say 'I'm pregnant or I've got a baby can we make her part of this' people are so willing," she told Sky News.
Here's hoping we can one day get it right.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.