Longtime cast member Rockmond Dunbar exited the Fox drama after request for medical and religious vaccine exemptions were rejected by the series’ production company.
During the most recent episode of Fox’s first responder drama 9-1-1, fans got a major surprise when Rockmond Dunbar exited the series. Turns out he didn’t want to comply with the vaccine mandate of production company Disney TV Studios’ 20th Television.
According to Deadline, the actor is reportedly not anti-vax, and did seek both medical and religious exemptions, which were rejected. He released a statement explaining his beliefs:
“I applied for religious and medical accommodations pursuant to the law and unfortunately was denied by my employer,” he said. “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. 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.”
Per TVLine, Dunbar has played Michael Grant since the pilot. He and Athena (Angela Bassett) were married until he came out as gay and they divorced. The pair remained close, parenting their children together. He even developed a deep friendship with Athena’s new husband Bobby.
In “Defend in Place,” Michael’s boyfriend David planned to move to Haiti to help with earthquake relief. Michael decided to propose, but after a bomb almost claimed his fiance’s life, Michael chose to move with him. He and the family shared a sad goodbye, complete with a montage.
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“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 said.
In response to Dunbar, 20th Television released its own statement:
“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.”
Deadline went on to report that Dunbar has a close relationship with 9-1-1 executive producer Tim Minear, so his story was deliberately left open for the actor to return if circumstances change.
Dunbar’s exit follows recent stories of high profile firings and exits from General Hospital, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, and Ice Cube leaving a $9 million paycheck instead of getting vaccinated for a movie production.
As more production companies’ vaccine mandates go into effect, we can expect to see more surprising exits across movies and television.