It began simply enough. A woman walked into the night, leaving her husband and newborn child. An ex-husband suddenly left to rebuild Haiti. Then an NCIS agent moved to Alaska. A rookie cop was executed by a drug cartel. And three staff members departed the E.D. on Chicago Med.
One by one, characters have been disappearing from popular shows without warning. Poof. Gone.
Of course, there were reasons. Some had babies. (Quarantine’s good for that.) Another just turned 70. (So playing an active federal agent is just ridiculous.)
But some disappeared for the same reason people are disappearing from jobs in other industries.
While putting on a mask is an annoyance for some, it’s impossible for working actors unless the scene actually requires it. So many favour vaccination requirements on-set to keep everyone safe.
Sean Penn, who founded Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), supplied COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution across Los Angeles County. So it’s no surprise that this summer, Penn walked off the set of his upcoming movie, demanding that everyone in the crew be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, another Hollywood set was shut down because one of the production’s unvaccinated stars tested positive. That delay was said to cost the studio nearly $6 million.
Consequently, the various Hollywood unions developed a “Covid-19 Safety Agreement.” It allowed producers to decide whether those working in Zone A – main actors who cannot wear a mask because of storylines as well as key crew members – had to be vaccinated. It protects the cast. But it’s also making people disappear.
Child actors have all-but vanished from most sets due to the initial lack of a vaccine for those under 12.
The adults have options. But daytime soap star, Steve Burton who played Jason Morgan on General Hospital for 30 years, announced that he had been fired over the show's vaccine requirement. Of course, he failed to mention that he’d also tested positive.
911 star, Rockmond Dunbar left after his application for religious and medical exemption was denied. And producers chose not to pick up Emilio Estevez’s option for Season 2 of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers because he disagreed with the show’s vaccine requirements. (Seriously, Might Ducks without Emilio Estevez?)
In response, many of their vaccinated co-stars are publicly understanding and diplomatic about their choice. (Never know who you’ll work with in the future.) Some, however, have been less tactful. Mandalorian and Better Call Saul actor, Giancarlo Esposito said “If you don’t want to vaccinate, go to a small island and sequester yourself. [Otherwise] you’re saying ‘@#*& you’ to all you other human beings.”
And the king of Hollywood’s moral code, George Clooney has been equally direct. “Every generation in our country for more than a lifetime has been asked to sacrifice something for the safety of their fellow man … All that anyone’s being asked here is to get a shot in the arm and put on a mask. Grow up.”
So be prepared to say goodbye to more of your favourite characters in the coming months. “Growing up” rarely happens in Hollywood’s land of make believe.