It has been widely speculated since the announcement of Disney’s corporate mandated COVID-19 vaccination policy that long running soap opera General Hospital would likely see the exit of several high profile cast members.
On November 2, TV Source learned that Steve Burton was among three stars that would be exiting the series for failure to comply. Although we teased social media that major news was coming, we were not comfortable publishing the story.
Performers in the Screen Actors Guild — the union representing performers that daytime actors belong to — are working under pandemic era terms in their return to work agreement which states “Producers may in their discretion implement policies requiring that current and prospective employees in Zone A (the area where scenes are filmed and the immediate vicinity where the crew works), studio teachers and others who come into close contact with minors be ‘fully vaccinated’ as a condition of employment where permitted by law.” Actors were made aware in August that a mandate to be vaccinated would be implemented for a date of completion by November 1.
While there has been wide speculation about who was going and staying, one of the biggest hits came in the form of none other than viewer’s favorite leather jacket and black t-shirt wearing blue-eyed mob enforcer, Jason Morgan, portrayed by Steve Burton. The Emmy winning actor confirmed he was terminated from General Hospital for refusing to get vaccinated. Burton’s final airdate was Friday, November 19. The show films 3-4 weeks ahead, and the taping took place before the mandate went into effect. In the episode, Jason was seemingly killed after being crushed in a cave collapse in Greece.
Citing medical and religious reasons for opposing the vaccine, Burton took to Instagram and made it clear that he has no desire to obtain the vaccine as a compromise to reprise the role that he has played on and off since 1991. Even after contracting Covid-19 back in August of this year, stating he’d contracted the virus on set, the actor remained firm in his decision to not vaccinate. In an anti-vaccine, “my body my choice”-like speech, he revealed some of the reasons why he was let go from the long-time soap opera.
“I wanted you to hear it from me personally, unfortunately, ‘General Hospital’ has let me go because of the vaccine mandate. I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions, and both of those were denied. Which, you know, hurts. But this is also about personal freedom to me.”
He continued stating that one day if the mandates were lifted, he could return and reprise the role and also thanked his fans saying “when one door closes multiple doors open.” While one of those doors clearly won’t be in Port Charles, the actor seemed very optimistic about his future.
His full statement can be seen below:
Well I know there has been a lot of rumors and speculations about me and General Hospital and I wanted you to hear it from me personally. Unfortunately, General Hospital has let me go because of the vaccine mandate. I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions and both of those were denied, which, you know, hurts. But this is also about personal freedom to me. I don’t think anyone should lose their livelihood over this. But with that being said, you know me. I’ll always be grateful for my time at General Hospital. I love it there. I grew up there. I grew up with some of you, so I will always be grateful and I believe when one door closes multiple doors open. That’s always been my perspective, so I am excited to see what the future brings. And maybe one day when these mandates are lifted, I can return and finish my career as Jason Morgan. That would be an honor. And if not, I am going to take this amazing experience, move forward and be forever grateful. I have got to say that I am forever grateful for your love and your support over the years. It means so much to me. Thank you. I don’t know when my last airdate is. It may have aired or it might be tomorrow or the next day. I am not sure. I want you guys to have an awesome Thanksgiving. I know it is hard, maybe, in this type of situation to be thankful or grateful, but we have so many things to be thankful about. Being grateful really is the key. Love you guys. Thank you.Steve Burton via Instagram
Burton isn’t the only actor exiting GH. Co-star Ingo Rademacher, who plays Jax Jacks and was at the center of anti-vaccine headlines over the summer, also refused to comply with the vaccine mandate and was terminated. His last episode was November 22. Joining him is Carolyn Hennessy, who plays attorney Diane Miller (Editor’s Note: See Below Update & Correction). There were also over a dozen crew members who failed to comply.
There are several questions in the air as to how General Hospital will handle the exit long term. The character was originally slated to be a major part of the series’ Christmas episodes, which have since been rewritten. Jason Morgan is a pivotal character connected to all major families. Recasting is an option, as the series did in 2014 with Billy Miller, though the storyline was retconned upon Burton’s return in 2017.
It remains to be seen at this time if that’s where the show is headed, but one thing is very clear, Jason Morgan gone from Port Charles, and it wasn’t by plane, it wasn’t by train, it was a needle or lack of one that decided the fate of everyone’s favorite mob enforcer.
UPDATE 11/24/21: CORRECTION: GH star Carolyn Hennessy has commented on reports of her alleged exit. For transparency purposes we will not edit the original article, but will include this correction indicating she has refuted the report.