Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Star's Vaccine Refusal Complicates Production

As businesses large and small reckon with COVID-19 vaccine pushback, a federal court has halted the Biden administration's mandate issued November 4, instructing that tens of millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4, or get tested for the virus weekly. The White House encourages private businesses to instill their own vaccine requirements while the debate makes its way to the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the entertainment industry has seen an upswell of studio mandates, making vaccination mandatory for those working in close proximity Zone A on a given production. A producer tells THR, "We're really only considering those who are vaccinated," while another says, "Nobody wants an Aaron Rodgers situation," referring to the NFL quarterback who flouted the League's COVID-19 protocols and tested positive for the virus this week, leading to loss of playing time and a hefty fine of $14,650 (his team, the Green Bay Packers, must also pay a $300,000 fine to the League). The NFL's enforcement of their own requirements drives home the point that many businesses are beginning to counteract the losses incurred by their vaccine-refusing employees. On Nov. 8, the CDC implemented the new rule requiring all non-immigrant, non-citizen air travelers to the U.S. to be fully vaccinated and show proof of such before boarding a plane, further complicating things for those opting out of the shot.

Cast and crewmembers on productions who haven't yet gotten the vaccine will potentially complicate their respective projects. Disney's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is one such production, as its British star Letitia Wright (who plays Shuri, the sister of Black Panther T'Challa played by the late Chadwick Boseman) is not vaccinated. The actor is resting in her London home following an on-set injury in August, but her return to the States to film the "Black Panther" sequel, which shoots in Atlanta, may run into logistical problems.

Vaccine Refusal May Cost Actors Work

In the moviemaking industry, several actors have spoken out against the COVID-19 vaccine and related mandates, with some leaving projects over the issue. Ice Cube has dropped out of the Sony comedy "Oh Hell No," leaving $9 million on the table, and "General Hospital" soap star Ingo Rademacher was fired for vaccine non-compliance. This summer, production was halted on Paramount+ series "The Offer," about the making of "The Godfather," due to a positive COVID-19 result. It was less than a year ago that Hollywood was brought to a standstill due to virus spread amid critical hospitalization rates.

Asked for comment on the vaccine refusal, Wright's rep repeated a week-old statement to The Hollywood Reporter: "Letitia has been recovering in London since September from injuries sustained on the set of 'Black Panther 2' and is looking forward to returning to work early 2022. Letitia kindly asks that you keep her in your prayers."