Michelle Williams is taking a leave of absence from her role as Erzulie in the Broadway musical Once on This Island, on the advice of her doctors. As Newsweek reports, the news was shared in a statement from the play’s showrunners, who announced on Wednesday that Williams’ leave of absence was “effective immediately.”
Understudy Cassondra James will step in for Williams until Dec. 26, after which Lea Salonga will take over the role until the show ends on Jan. 6, Newsweek writes.
The announcement didn’t make clear why Williams’ doctors ordered her to step away from the play, nor has Williams herself spoken out about her exit. However, it’s been a trying year for Williams, who recently went through a very public split from her pastor fiance, Chad Johnson.
Williams has also spoken on several occasions about her ongoing struggles with depression, which got particularly dire this year around the time of her guest performance at Coachella (where she appeared alongside her former Destiny’s Child squad, Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland). Williams told People magazine that throughout the year of preparation for the performance, “I was burying it, and before you knew it, I was looking up out of the pit like, ‘Oh my God.’”
Williams also made it clear that finding love had no bearing on her depression.
“I thought, ‘I’m good! I’ve got love. I’m working out,’” she said. “But I was so angry. The rage built up in me. I did not attempt suicide, but I was questioning [life].”
It’s hard to capture or overstate how hard it is to deal with depression; how much it permeates the most mundane facets of one’s everyday life. It’s even more difficult to imagine what that struggle looks like in the public eye, under which Michelle Williams has lived and toiled for almost 20 years.
Our thoughts are with her.