EXCLUSIVE UPDATED: Once again, Tyler Perry is not waiting for the entertainment industry to adopt a uniform policy and has introduced a mandate requiring vaccinations for casts and crews in Zone A of shows at his Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
The return-to-work protocols agreed upon by the Hollywood unions and major studios in June 2021 — and since extended — stopped short of mandating vaccinations. Instead, they gave producers “the option to implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew in Zone A on a production-by-production basis.”
Since then, Netflix and Disney adopted a blanket policy for their U.S. productions, requiring vaccinations for everyone working in Zone A, which consists of the actors and those who come in close proximity to them. The other studios have done it on a show-by-show basis.
Tyler Perry Studios this week notified casts and crews that all actors as well as crew members who interact with them have to be fully vaccinated (that includes a booster if the person is eligible.)
I hear the decision was made after Perry attempted to start production on a soon-to-be-officially-greenlighted second season of his BET+ series All the Queen’s Men. The shoot, scheduled for before the holidays, was pushed to Jan. 10 after the number of positive tests shot up from 0 to 16 during the routine pre-production testing, sources said. (Because of the ongoing Covid surge spurred by the highly contagious Omicron variant, start of production has since been delayed to Jan. 31.)
The experience with the postponed shoot was noted in the letter sent to cast and crew, informing them of the new vaccine policy, I hear. According to sources, the requirement will be strictly enforced, with TPS independently verifying vaccination status due to widespread reports of fake vaccination cards, including on Hollywood productions.
Perry has been an early proponent of Covid vaccines. The uber producer got vaccinated in January 2021 and urged his fans to get the jab on social media, in interviews and through his BET special, Covid-19 Vaccine and the Black Community A Tyler Perry Special,
He held a vaccination drive at TPS in April 2021 when he reported that 55% of his crew had received at least one doze and encouraged Americans to get vaccinated. The percentage of his casts that have been fully vaccinated is now 95%, somewhat lower for the crews, sources said.
Production shutdowns over Covid cases is costly. The agreement between studios and unions initially called for a 14-day suspension of filming over positive tests in Zone A. That time has recently gone down to 5-7 days in some cases following CDC’s new guidance for a shorter isolation and quarantine period that has been creating confusion. Still, for an independent studio like TPS, which films an entire season of a show in about two weeks, this represents a major disruption, prompting Perry to act.
“Between the conflicting rules of the CDC and the unions, as an independent studio it’s difficult to navigate and operate efficiently,” he told Deadline. “I wish they were on the same page, but I also understand the complexities of a pandemic that changes daily.”
Perry also stepped up early in the pandemic. He was one of the first producers to come up with a comprehensive plan to safely restart TV production in April 2020. Perry got filming up and running by mid-July, employing a quarantine bubble model, in which cast and crew are sequestered on the lot for the duration of a shoot. He created extensive safety and testing protocols before there were any; the industry followed months later. Perry ended the quarantine bubble in April 2021 after the majority of his casts and crews received vaccines.
The ViacomCBS series from Perry which film at his TPS also include Sistas, The Oval, Bruh, Ruthless, Assisted Living and Young Dylan.
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