Warren Leight, the showrunner for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” has shared his frustration that he’s had to recast roles on the long-running NBC procedural after learning actors were not vaccinated.
“To my sadness we are still offering parts to actors only to learn they STILL aren’t vaccinated (and therefore we won’t/can’t hire them),” Leight tweeted Monday night. “Our community has to look out for each other, especially when working unmasked in close quarters. The stream of misinformation is toxic.”
“The vast majority here are also vaccinated, but I’ve been surprised that even some older members of our community have chosen to play Russian Roulette with Covid,” he added.
Although Leight did not mention anyone by name, all of the New York-based “Law & Order” series have drawn from the local pool of actors in New York City, including many Broadway stars.
Last July, the Hollywood guilds and studios modified COVID protocols to allow producers to require cast and crew working in “Zone A,” the area of a set where filming directly takes place, to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to work on those shoots.
The mandate could be implemented on a production-by-production basis on the condition that workers were notified with enough advance notice to receive the vaccine and develop immunity to the virus.
Studio insiders tell TheWrap that such mandates have been enforced on productions with tight schedules or those that have actors involved in multiple projects to prevent the chance of a long pause in production due to a lead actor getting infected.
The protocols, which were first agreed upon by Hollywood’s studios and guilds in September 2020, are set to expire Sunday. COVID-19 safety task forces for the guilds have set up regular meetings with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, to revise the protocols and extend its expiration date. Guild officials have told TheWrap they expect COVID-19 protocols to be in effect on film and TV productions for the duration of 2022.
“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” is in the midst of airing its 23rd season, having aired its 500th episode this past October. The original “Law & Order” series is also set to return to NBC after over a decade off the air on Feb. 24.