“9-1-1” series regular Rockmond Dunbar has exited the Fox first-responder drama after more than four seasons over the show’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, TheWrap has learned.
Episode 509 of the Ryan Murphy-produced show, which aired Monday, featured an abrupt farewell to Dunbar’s character Michael Grant, the gay ex-husband of LAPD sergeant Athena Grant (Angela Bassett), a character Dunbar has played since the series premiered.
The hour, titled “Defend in Place,” was originally set as the Nov. 29 episode, but swapped with Episode 508 (which does not feature Dunbar’s character) on Fox’s schedule to accelerate Dunbar being written off “9-1-1,” an individual close to production tells TheWrap. During the episode, Michael proposes to his surgeon boyfriend David and decides to move with him to Haiti, where David will be helping with hurricane relief efforts.
Because Michael is not featured in Episodes 508 or 510 (which is the midseason finale, set to air Dec. 6), Monday’s episode marks Dunbar’s final appearance on the show, the insider said.
“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,” “9-1-1” studio 20th Television said in a Tuesday statement to TheWrap regarding Dunbar’s exit. “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.”
According to Deadline, which first reported the news that Dunbar had exited “9-1-1” due to production’s vaccine mandate, the actor had tried to get both a medical and religious exemption to the on-set rules.
“I applied for religious and medical accommodations pursuant to the law and unfortunately was denied by my employer,” Dunbar said in a statement to 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. 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 added: “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.“
Representatives for Dunbar did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment Tuesday.