The Hollywood Reporter published a story today about the industry’s divided and frustrated response to keeping casts and crews safe during filming when certain members of projects forgo receiving covid-19 vaccinations—and the chaos positive cases are having on productions over and over. The trade alleged that Letitia Wright, who is currently reprising her role as Princess Shuri in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as it films in Atlanta, Georgia, has continued to express anti-vaccine skepticism on the set of the film.
Wright came under fire in December last year for a tweet in which she shared a video from the self-proclaimed prophet and Christian media producer Tomi Arayomi. Among several other assertions in the video, the man claimed that vaccines produced by China against covid-19 shouldn’t be trusted, cast doubt on human impact on climate change, and said transgender people were “something [he] just technically, biologically [doesn’t] believe in.” Wright initially tweeted the nearly 70-minute video (removed from YouTube for its anti-vaccination misinformation) with a prayer hands emoji, but after facing backlash, tweeted an also-since-deleted defense for doing so. “My intention was not to hurt anyone,” Wright tweeted. “My ONLY intention of posting the video was it raised my concerns with what the vaccine contains and what we are putting in our bodies.” THR notes that, shortly after the backlash, Wright “parted ways” with her American PR team.
Wright’s Shuri is often spoken about as a potential successor for the Black Panther mantle in Marvel’s films in the wake of the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman last year. The character will presumably play a major role in the sequel regardless. According to THR, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s filming is currently unaffected by an incoming mandate from Disney for upcoming filming projects in line with a return-to-work deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and several Hollywood trade unions. As part of the deal—expected to go into effect sometime this month—cast and crew will be required to display physical proof of covid-19 vaccination while on set. High-profile actors in “Zone A”—i.e., performers who cannot wear masks because of shooting constraints—would wear a wristband.
An interesting piece of commentary from The Mandalorian’s Giancarlo Esposito—fellow actors under the long arm of the Disney corporation—revealed a different stance. The actor, who will have to adhere to the new identification mandates from the studio should Moff Gideon return for the show’s third season, offered a strong response to actors and crew who share Wright’s view. “If you don’t want to vaccinate, go to a small island and sequester yourself, [otherwise] you’re saying ‘Fuck you’ to all you other human beings. We all have to do it if we want to live. I don’t understand how people don’t vaccinate,” Esposito told THR. “For me, I’ve lost dear friends, so I know it’s real. Not only in Europe but in America, friends who were completely healthy and uncompromised. The vaccine is the answer. I’m not downing anyone who doesn’t want to vaccinate. Don’t work. Go ride it out somewhere where you’re not going to compromise anyone else if you get it.”
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