Reality TV

Sean Penn Won’t Work Unless Everyone on His New Show Is Vaccinated


Sean Penn has made a historic demand from the set of his upcoming limited series with Julia Roberts: Either the entire production gets vaccinated, or he walks away from the project. The two-time Oscar winner’s decree comes just weeks before he’s set to wrap on the Starz Watergate series Gaslit, Deadline reports. It also arrives as the delta variant of COVID-19 spikes in Los Angeles County.

As it currently stands, Gaslit’s studio, NBCUniversal, mandates vaccines for “Zone A,” a category of workers that includes cast and crew members who work in close proximity to them. But Penn wants immunization required for all other areas of production too.  The actor, who is fully vaccinated himself and recently appeared at the Cannes Film Festival, is offering free vaccines to Gaslit workers who need them through his nonprofit, CORE. According to Deadline, his organization has also advocated for COVID-19 testing availability, and it has helped administer 1.7 million vaccines in the city. 

Penn’s Watergate series is being filmed mainly indoors in Burbank, per the outlet. Created by Mr. Robot’s Robbie Pickering and Sam Esmail with Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic) directing, the show is based on the Slate podcast Slow Burn. Penn plays Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell, while Roberts is his wife, Martha. The cast also includes Betty Gilpin, Dan Stevens, Shea Whigham, Allison Tolman, and Darby Camp.

This isn’t the first time an A-list actor has stood their ground on a pandemic-era production. Last December, Tom Cruise went viral after an audio clip of him yelling at two Mission: Impossible 7 crew members for breaking COVID-19 protocol by standing near each other. “I don’t ever want to see it again, ever. And if you don’t do it, you’re fired. If I see you do it again you’re fucking gone,” he shouted. “We are not shutting this fucking movie down! Is it understood?” he later said. Five crew members reportedly quit after a Cruise tirade. His warnings aside, production on the movie was forced to shut down for two weeks in June 2021 after at least one member of the production had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Gaslit sources told Deadline that while “production has been sympathetic to Penn’s wish,” the studio may not be legally able to enforce it. Instead, Universal will likely need to negotiate mass vaccination requirements with Hollywood unions and other studios.

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