Sean Penn Refuses to Continue Shooting Watergate Series ‘Gaslit’ Until All Crew Are Required to Be Vaccinated

Star is pressing for vaccination beyond current safety protocols

sean penn
(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Sean Penn will not return to film Starz’s upcoming Watergate TV series “Gaslit” until mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations are instituted for all crew members, TheWrap has learned.

The limited series’ producer, Universal Content Productions, currently stipulates that only those designated in Zone A on a production are required to get vaccinated. That would include the cast and everyone who comes in close contact with them. Penn, however, wants those in Zones B and C to also be required to take one of the three available vaccines, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.

Reps for UCP and Penn declined to comment, while a rep for Starz did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Although Penn wants vaccine requirements for all zones, a separate individual with knowledge of the production told TheWrap they can only go as far as the current agreed-upon COVID protocols allow them to — which, as of now, mandates that only Zone A be vaccinated. The individual said it’s possible those could be amended to allow producers to require everyone on set be vaccinated.

Penn is offering to provide free vaccinations through his non-profit organization, CORE.

Penn is set to co-star with Julia Roberts in the Starz limited series, which is described by the studio as a “modern take on Watergate that focuses on the untold stories and forgotten characters of the scandal — from Nixon’s bumbling, opportunistic subordinates, to the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes, to the tragic whistleblowers who would eventually bring the whole rotten enterprise crashing down.”

Penn is set to play Richard Nixon’s loyal attorney general, John Mitchell, with Roberts playing Mitchell’s Arkansan socialite wife, Martha. Dan Stevens and Betty Gilpin also star.

Sam Esmail, Matt Ross and Robbie Pickering are executive producing the series, with Ross set to direct and Pickering acting as showrunner. The series hails from UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group, where Esmail has an overall deal.

Deadline was first to report on Penn’s stance.


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