Monday evening, original “9-1-1” cast member Rockmond Dunbar was written off the Fox series because of his vaccination status, according to sources as studio-enforced vaccine mandates threaten to take a toll on some beloved American television series.
Fans were shocked by Dunbar’s character, Michael Grant’s abrupt departure from the series after five seasons with the show on Monday night’s episode.
Sources told Deadline that Dunbar’s exit is due to new coronavirus mandates on the set of the show, produced by Disney TV Studios’ 20th Television, that require all actors to be vaccinated.
— 9-1-1 on FOX (@911onFOX) November 16, 2021
While Dunbar is reportedly not an anti-vaxxer, he did seek a medical exemption from the vaccine and when that was denied, he sought religious exemption. Disney reviewed and rejected both requests, according to Deadline sources.
Despite the sad and frustrating circumstances, Dunbar remained above it all in a thoughtful statement on his departure.
“I applied for religious and medical accommodations pursuant to the law and unfortunately was denied by my employer. My sincerely held beliefs and private medical history are very intimate and personal aspects of my life that I do not publicly discuss and have no desire to start now,” the actor explained. “I’ve been an actor in this business for 30 years, but my greatest roles are as a husband and father to our 4 small children. As a man that walks in faith, I look forward to what the future holds.”
In a nod to the cast and crew, Dunbar said, “I have enjoyed the last 5 seasons with this wonderful cast and crew and will cherish the time I’ve been blessed to spend with this series and wish everyone involved nothing but the best.“
A spokesman for 20th Television told Deadline that personnel in Zone A will be required to show proof of vaccination to continue their employment. This includes actors and crew members who directly interact with them.
“We take the health and safety of all of our employees very seriously, and have implemented a mandatory vaccination confirmation process for those working in Zone A on our productions. In order to ensure a safer workplace for all, Zone A personnel who do not confirm their vaccination status and do not meet the criteria for exemption will not be eligible to work,” the spokesman said.
Dunbar is reportedly well-liked and close to “9-1-1” co-creator/executive producer/showrunner Tim Minear. For that reason, writers purposefully left his plot open-ended with the hope he could eventually return to the show.
The actor has been a part of the series since the first episode. His character was originally married to Athena (Angela Bassett), before coming out as gay. Despite the two divorcing, they remained amicable to best co-parent their two children.
Monday night’s emotional episode featured Dunbar’s character proposing to his boyfriend, David (La Monde Byrd), a neurosurgeon, before announcing they would both be going to Haiti to aid in hurricane relief efforts. The show concluded with a tear-jerker of a montage.
Many viewers took to Twitter to voice their disappointment at Dunbar’s departure, but also to share their pride in the actor’s choice to stand his ground against the vaccine mandate.
Then drop the vaccine mandate so he can return to his job. He is a grown man who can make a decision and if he can show a negative test, then let him do his job.
— Marc C (@MarcNYY618) November 16, 2021
Just coz it’s mandated doesn’t mean it’s a LAW !!
People have a right NOT to be vaccinated, this is really
going to far with these Power Pushers 😡
— Brea Smith (@SmithBrea20) November 16, 2021
I’m not happy with this development. I love Michael and David as part of Athena and Bobby’s family.
— Anita Merritt (@CanadianAnita) November 16, 2021
Companies bitching they can’t get workers, but requiring people to do something they don’t believe in. Now there’s gonna be even less of a workforce. Good for him taking a stand.
— Christina Andretich (@christina231304) November 17, 2021
Thank you Michael for standing up for what you believe is right for you. You didn’t sell your soul – you were true to your values, your integrity, your morals and your principals. I congratulate you!
— FITNEVISION (@SandiBerger) November 16, 2021
Will miss you on the show, but GOOD FOR YOU!!! This forced vaccination need to stop.
— Susan Hill (@SusanHill1967) November 17, 2021
That’s right!!! Stand your ground.
— Cheryl Bourgeois (@CherylB611) November 17, 2021
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