Rockmond Dunbar is leaving FOX’s hit police/medical drama 9-1-1 amid new regulations requiring cast and crew to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for filming.
According to a report from Deadline, the actor presented multiple reasons for exemption from vaccination, both religious and medical, but was denied each time by Disney TV Studios’ 20th Television, the show’s production company. Insiders say that no one on set knows Dunbar to necessarily be an anti-vaxxer, yet he has fervently refused to comply with the mandate.
“I applied for religious and medical accommodations pursuant to the law and unfortunately was denied by my employer,” Dunbar told Deadline. “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.”
Like many other productions, the show was filmed throughout the pandemic and actors and crew had to take many protocols to keep safe while on set.
“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,” he continued.
“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.”
Dunbar was abruptly written off the show in Monday night’s Season 5, Episode 8 “Defend in Place,” confusing unsuspecting fans who have been used to his recurring character since episode one of the hit FOX series. He portrayed Michael Grant, the ex-husband of Angela Basset’s leading character, police officer Athena Grant. His role was reportedly left open should the conflict over vaccination become resolved in the future and the actor and production can come to agreeable terms.
“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,” Disney TV Studios’ 20th Television said in a statement. “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.”
This is an issue Hollywood may face more of in the coming weeks and months, as more studios move toward this universal standard and some actors remain firm in their beliefs against inoculation.