9-1-1 has been experiencing a number of cast shake-ups in its fifth season. The hit Fox drama seemingly said goodbye to Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Maddie Buckley in early October, in what turned out to be a heartbreaking twist. And just this week, the series bade a fond farewell to yet another veteran cast member -- Rockmond Dunbar, who played Michael Grant. Though the development saw Michael engaged to boyfriend David (with whom he plans to travel to Haiti), many viewers seemed surprised by the narrative choice. Now, a new report has named an alleged behind-the-scenes reason for Dunbar’s departure.
The recent report alleges that the actor’s exit is due to the new COVID protocols that the Disney-owned 20th Television has instituted for 9-1-1 as well as its various other productions. As part of this, the studio has implemented a vaccine mandate and, though Deadline reports that Rockmond Dunbar is not against vaccines, he opted not to comply. The trade reached out to the studio, and a spokesperson responded with a message detailing its current safety measures:
This news comes during a time in which film and TV studios are aiming to adapt amid the ongoing pandemic. A number of studios have experienced a number of COVID-related shutdowns, with some occurring on the sets of high-profile shows.
In this particular situation, Rockmond Dunbar first sought to receive a medical exemption from the mandate before also requesting a religious exemption. Both were ultimately denied by Disney, which reportedly led to the actor’s eventual decision to leave the show. Dunbar also gave his account of the situation in a statement to Deadline:
The veteran star has been with 9-1-1 since the show’s first season debuted on Fox back in 2018. His Michael Grant, is ex-husband of Angela Bassett’s Athena Grant Nash, who he divorced after coming out as gay. Following their split, the two maintained an amicable relationship, which continued even after Athena remarries. Grant became a beloved character on the show, and Rockmond Dunbar seems grateful for having been able to portray the him for the past few years:
It remains to be seen as to whether the series might bring on a new cast member to fill the void. But one thing that can be said is that the actor and his character will certainly be missed by fans.
9-1-1 airs new episodes on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. It’s one of the fall’s biggest returning shows, and you can learn about others by checking out CinemaBlend’s 2021 schedule.
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