Jason & Jax Out at ‘GH’:How ABC’s Decision Was Made…
Controversy Began In August Over ‘GH’ Cast Members Social Media Posts on Vaccinations
In late August, controversy placed ‘General Hospital’ in the headlines, as Nancy Lee Graham and Ingo Rademacher clashed over COVID-19 vaccination mandates. Grahn found support among her fanbase with her stance encouraging the leadership of SAG/AFTRA to mandate preventative measures for the members of the acting community. Meanwhile, Rademacher was just as vocal about his views which could be described as “pro-personal freedom” or “anti-vaccination” depending on the indendiary nature of his tweets on any given day. Some fans lashed out at Grahn while many others called for Rademacher’s firing.
Things escalated when fellow ‘GH’ star Steve Burton tested positive for the virus and grew from there. Soon after Burton shared his diagnosis with fans then went a step further byinforming fans that he was exposed on the set of GH. This all was playing out as the Delta variant began spreading at an alarming pace. Like many employers around the nation and all over the world, Disney began weighing itsn options. Disney had to take necessary precautions to protect its employees, avoid a public relations nightmare, ensure it complied with laws at the state and federal level and to avoid unecessary impact to its bottom line.
Rademacher was the most vocal cast member who was against a vaccination mandate. The calls for his firing were aggressive and his response fanned the flames. Social media accounts speculated Steven Burton held his co-star responsible for his infection. Some felt Grahn’s comments were confirmation of this due to the timing.
What Exactly HAppened Behind The Scenes?
The events behind the scenes during this time are widely speculated on, but what is now known but was not known initially is that Burton was not vaccinated. Burton’s decision to share his personal medical status was uncharacteristic of an actor. While more outgoing than his character on ‘GH’, Burton is known for remaining tight lipped with the press, preferring to share more at the in-person fan events that helped cement his popularity with viewers.
With Grahn and Rademacher taking heat from fans on both sides of the issue, Burton’s announcement was not controversial- initally. They might have satyed that way had the actor simply shared his status and expressed gratitude that his symptoms were not severe. But the explicit statement that the infection occurred on set appeared to be a rebuke of Rademacher’s position. However, it appears that Burton wanted to make a point that despite the best efforts of the cast, the majority of which were vaccinated- Burton still was exposed.
Rumors Swirled that more Actors would Be Fired
In the end, Disney made a decision that was both bold and not entirely unexplected and mandated vaccines for its employees across all sectors of its extensive holdings. The mandate went into effect November 1st with exceptions made for religius or medical exemption per corproate approval. As the date approached rumors began online stating that Rademacher, Burton and fellow co-stars such as Marcus Kaloma and Johnny Wactor would be terminated for not complying with the mandate. At one point, upwards of eight actors were rumored to be let go from the show by ABC due to Disney’s mandate.
As the story started to become more concrete that Rademacher and Burton would be let go, things took a turn. Grahn confirmed the madate was in place, but did not share what actors if any did not comply. No cast member or network representative would comment in any way on the matter- a huge red flag. If Rademacher had not made the mistep of retweeting a transphobic meme (the only transgender actress in soap opera history, Cassandra James, costars on the ABC soap), his firing would likely have remained unconfirmed until after his last scene aired. The network announced his departure and last airdate the very next day. Rademacher apologized in a less than convincing manner and reserved comment on his firing until the days that followed. Burton’s exit was not confirmed until his character’s onscreen death.
Increased Risks Posed By Covid-19 Infection In Relation to Age Group
According to the CDC’s website, the baseline for transmission/infection with COVID-19 is basically the same for all age groups. Age however, does play a very big role in the progression of the illness once somebody is infected. The age group of 18-29 is used as the reference group on which the data for likelihood of hospitalisation and death among COVID cases is based on. People ages 30-49 are twice as likely as people 18-29 to require hospitalisation. Peopleged 50 to 64 years old are 4 times as likely than those 18-29 years old to require hospitalisation. Those between ages of 65 to 74 are 6x (six times) as likely to be hospitalized due to a COVID-19 infection.
The likelihood of death resulting from a COVID 19 infection is four times as likely for someodby 30 to 39. That likelihood increases to ten times (10X) for those ages 40-49. For those aged 50 to 64 the likelihood of death from COVID-19 infection increase to thirty-five times. In cases where patients were between the ages of 65 and 74, the chances of a patient dying was ninety-five times (95X) more likely than that of an 18 to 29 year old.
The Risk of Severe Complications Post Infection
Based On Age Group
|Age Group||Risk of |
Data taken from Center For Disease Control offical website.
The Risk of Potential Severe Complications on Cast Members
Over 40 Cast Members in High Risk Age Groups
The vast majority of General Hospital’s cast members fall into high-risk categories. Here are some current cast-members, frequent recurring cast-members, some recent guest stars and a few cast members likely to return as the soap opera approaches its 60th anniversary.
The data below is not meant to sensationalize but to illustrate the risk posed by COVID-19 to the ‘General Hospital’ cast in real world terms. This is information based on actor’s birthdates and the CDC data on health risks upon infection by age group.
Ages 40 to 49 Years Old:
Two-Times higher risk for hospitalization, Ten-Times higher risk oF death
- Dominic Zampragno, (Dante) 43
- Rebecca Herbst, (Liz) 44
- Kimberly Mccullough, (Robin) 45
- Kelly Monaco, (Sam) 45
- Brooke Kerr, (Portia) 47
- Donnell Turner, (Curtis) 48
- Maura West, (Ava) 49
Ages 65 to 7o Years old:
Six-times more likely for hospitalization, 95-times more likely to end in death
- Nancy Lee Grahn, (Alexis) 65
- Charles Shaughnessy, (Victor) 66
- Joyce Guy, (Phyllis) 67
- Kin Shriner, (Scott) 67
- Jackie Zeman, (Bobbie) 68
- Vernee Watson, (Stella) 71
- Leslie Charlson, (Monica) 74
- Jane Elliot, (Tracy) 74
Ages 50 To 64 Years Old:
Four-times more likely for hospitalization, 35-times more likely to end in death
- Ingo Rademacher, (Jax) 50
- Lois Locicero, (Olivia) 51
- Steve Burton, (Jason) 51
- Laura Wright, (Carly) 51
- Roger Howarth, (Austin) 52
- Cameron Matheson, (Drew) 52
- William Devry, (Julian) 53
- Cynthia Watros, (Nina) 53
- Sean Blakemore, (Shawn) 54
- Michael Easton, (Finn) 55
- Kristina Wagner (Felicia) 58
- Maurice Bernard, (Sonny) 58
- Genie Francis, (Laura) 59
- Emma Samms, (Holly) 61
- Finola Hughes, (Anna) 61
- John J. York, (Mac) 62
- Lynn Herring, (Lucy) 62
- Wally Kurth, (Ned) 63
- Jon Lindstrom, (Kevin/Ryan) 63
- Kathleen Gati, (Liesl) 64
The Facts Behind Disney & The Vaccine Mandate
Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, COVID-19 has claimed millions of lives worldwide. As much as the pandemic had subsided, the risk of infection and outcomes are a very real issue and it is important to stay informed. The risk to actors on the set of a soap opera is very real. Close company is unavoidable in the age of quick turnaround production and stressful environments due to budget concerns. The entertainment industry is one where workplace safety laws often are overlooked by large media companies where higher profits come before employee’s health.
The Difficulty In Reporting The Story…
I made the decision to report on the firings of the only two actors whom reliable sources had confirmed. I learned information only in the vaguest of term from bloggers who were only sharing out of frustration with the decision by those covering the industry to sit on the story for fear of upsetting the network. Soap operas exist in a vacuum- if you are not a soap fan, viewer, critic or in the industry you have no clue what is going on and often do not care. Major stories and behind the scenes information are shared with the soap press at the network’s discretion. Nobody wants to upset the small group of people controlling the information that gets them paid.
The desire not to “bite the hand that feeds them” left many of the major outlets like Soap Opera Digest, Soaps In Depth, Soaps.com and many others silent while fans on social media and independent bloggers argued over what was fact and fiction. I stood by my decision to report on a pretty well-supported rumor- and I will always report on a “rumor” if there is a some evidence. However, choosing to report on a rumor does not mean it is an endorsement of the rumor, nor is it meant to fan any flames with fans or upset the actors involved. If a rumor takes shape and the actors refuse to comment and the network does not comment- something is amiss.
While I disagree as much with the actors who were fired on their stance, I wish things had played out differently. Granted the many fans who are praying for the show’s cancellation in a boycott are possibly the worst of the bunch. It does not meanI take pleasure in either actor losing their job. If you have ever been fired or even had to fire somebody else- no matter how justified, it doesn’t feel good- and we should be able to agree on that. By the way, I rarely side with large corporations but in this case I think ABC was justified in their decisions.
One more note on the matter: I am not a fan of either actor or character. But I can separate the actors from the characters- if Steve Burton consistently came alive as he did with Britt, I still would probably have been okay with his exit. However, if we saw Burton spar with anyone on screen like he did with Vanessa Marcil’s Brenda in 2002 I’d probably bemoan his political views but be bummed he was leaving. Ingo Rademacher is a servicable actor who has never been given anything more to do then be a second fiddle to other characters- I could not tell you if anything could make Jax viable on the show. Not even Vanessa Marcil can sway me on that. But ask me when the pandemic is over and maybe we can talk about it.
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