Lainy Boyle is pregnant. She's also in Alcatraz at VAULT Festival. She talks about the discrimination for impending mothers in the industry:

As a mother of a three-year-old child, pregnant with my second and with plenty of personal experience of dementia in my family, being cast in Alcatraz resonates on so many levels.

Firstly, I need to thank the producers of Right Mess, who have actively searched for and cast a pregnant woman for the role of Arden, the manager of a care home about to go on maternity leave when a resident escapes on Christmas Eve.

Lainy Boyle (image courtesy of Anna Hull)

Why is this such a revelation?

Let me ask you, when was the last time you saw a pregnant lady on your screen or indeed, on the stage?

Sure, if they’re contracted to a long running show they’ll work around it, or even write it in to the series, like Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) in Friends, or Maneet (Maya Sondhi) in Line of Duty. But the majority of the time you see a pregnant character she is being portrayed by a heartburn free, unfertilised actress wearing a fake bump.

But what about episodic roles? For instance, there’s no reason I couldn’t currently play a jobsworth receptionist with a couple of lines, or the friend of a main character for a handful of episodes.  These wouldn’t involve stunts (no actress in her right mind would put herself in that position anyway), or problems with continuity.

After reading this article, note how many pregnant women you know, or see, throughout the rest of the day and what they’re doing. Now, if you believe the entertainment industry, they’re either all in the middle of their waters breaking, or apparently hibernating. I’d love to see someone on screen pregnant but not because of the storyline. Even as I’m typing this, I glance up the news and during a live ten second clip on a busy London street there are two very obviously pregnant women. They’re not clutching their bellies and panting heavily, so I could be wrong, but maybe, just maybe, they’re going to work.

Because we do.

And we can.

Alcatraz VAULT Festival

Carey Mulligan (image courtesy of Getty Images)

Obviously, there’s still a long way to go with all diversity – race, gender, disabilities, age and more. But it seems we’ve barely even begun when it comes to showing the everyday lives of those creating life. A BBC Casting Director promised to go back into the office and have the conversation after the topic of diversity was brought up. They admitted they had no recollection of a conversation of this nature ever having taken place, despite trying to become as inclusive and representative as possible in the past few years. More alarmingly, a Carey Mulligan interview recently highlighted how she constantly sees actresses and crew members concealing their pregnancies in order to keep their jobs. Apparently, we’re still in the dark ages on this one.

“It’s because of the insurance”,

I hear producers cry. Through my various conversations with commercials producers, they speak of how it is automatically more expensive to insure a pregnant actress, or worse still, they refused altogether sometimes.

The reason? We’re more likely to not show up on the day!!

I can promise you here and now, if an actor – pregnant or not – gets cast in something, they do everything possible to make the set/ rehearsal/ show.

How is pregnancy any different to another physical or mental health situation, other than it sometimes being more visible? Everyone is different, but I’ve been lucky to have two very healthy pregnancies and not needed a day off. My mission when full time rehearsals for Alcatraz are done is to work with Equity, the amazing PiPA, and the awesome Raising Films to research the potential legality of the discrimination being presented here.

Charlene Ford in 42nd Street

So, regarding theatre, how often is it you see a pregnant lady on stage?

Admittedly this can sometimes be a harder thing to cast. There are exceptions like Charlene Ford, who was already under contract in 42nd Street when she became pregnant, worked right up until two months before her due date and has now become the first person to secure a job share role in the West End post birth. But she had to fight hard for that, initially being told she wouldn’t be able to return part time after her baby was born.

Alcatraz has a one week run, for a character 7 months pregnant, which I am. If running for a year, it would cost production a fair bit to be drafting in new actresses every 2-4 months. Which brings me back to Right Mess, the brave, wonderful production company who took the chance when it IS possible. As someone who had written off even the idea of an audition till the latter half of the year, I am delighted to have been cast in such a well written, poignant play.

Alcatraz plays at the VAULT Festival until 3 March 2019. For more information, please visit the festival website.