Original 9-1-1 cast member Rockmond Dunbar has exited the FOX series due to new COVID protocols on the show requiring all actors to be vaccinated, Deadline reports Tuesday. Dunbar's character, Michael Grant, was abruptly written off in Monday's episode of the first responder drama after the actor was rejected for both a medical and religious exemption to the vaccination requirements set by Disney TV Studios' 20th Television.
"I applied for religious and medical accommodations pursuant to the law and unfortunately was denied by my employer," Dunbar told Deadline in a statement after his exit. "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."
Dunbar went on to say of his more than four seasons on the hit drama, "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."
A spokesman for 20th Television also responded with a statement to Deadline's report, saying the studio takes the health and safety of all of its employees "very seriously," which is the reason for the "mandatory confirmation process" for people working in Zone A on its productions — which consists of cast members and the crew that works directly with them. "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," the representative continued.
Grant's send-off came amid a Season 5 storyline that had the original 9-1-1 character handling the kidnapping and rescue of his son Harry with ex-wife Athena (Angela Bassett). In Monday's episode, Grant's boyfriend announced he would be traveling to Haiti to help with hurricane relief efforts as a neurosurgeon, prompting Grant to propose and accompany him there. His character's emotional exit came as he told Athena and their children about his decision to head down to Haiti.