Emilio Estevez has confirmed he will not return for the second season of the Disney+ series “Mighty Ducks: Game Changers,” claiming “creative differences” are to blame for his departure.
The 59-year-old star announced the news to Deadline on Monday, just three days after the publication initially reported that he had quit the series “over the show’s COVID vaccination requirement.”
In a statement, Estevez insisted: “This was nothing more than a good old-fashioned contract dispute and not, as some would believe, an anti-vaccine position.”
The veteran actor insisted he was “not anti-vax,” but added that he was also not “anti-bully.” He did not disclose whether he has been inoculated against COVID-19.
In his statement, Estevez revealed he tested positive to COVID in March 2020 after feeling ill while filming the pilot of “Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” in Vancouver.
The star stated that he subsequently suffered “Long Haul Syndrome,” otherwise known as “long COVID” — whereby symptoms of the disease, such as fatigue, brain fog and shortness of breath, linger for months.
“I suffered the summer and fall of 2020 from what we now know as ‘Long Haul Syndrome,’” Estevez said in his statement.
“As the show went back into production in August 2020, I reluctantly soldiered on, but was uncertain about how I would be safe on set. I questioned the wisdom of returning to make a tv show in the middle of a pandemic and how actors could be considered ‘essential workers.’”
The actor continued: “The show producers tried their best to assuage my fears of coming back to work. ‘You have natural immunity!’ ‘You’ll be the safest one on set,’ I was repeatedly told. Additionally, I was warned by my former reps about possible consequences and legal jeopardy I could face for not reporting to work as ordered.”
The “Breakfast Club” icon eventually went on to film the first series, saying “the legacy of the franchise was more important to me than my own health.”
He did not publicly disclose his COVID-19 diagnosis at the time, but he says showrunners and producers were well aware of his condition.
“My exit from the show was due to a myriad of creative differences — any other narrative is false,” Estevez said. “To the fans of the franchise — I am as disappointed as you are. To my ‘Ducks’ cast and crew — have a wonderful Season 2 on the show and please know that I will miss you all.”
Disney TV Studios has required “Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” cast and crew to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The company has not responded to Estevez’s statement.
Estevez appeared in the original “Mighty Ducks” movie in 1992, playing defense attorney-turned-ice hockey coach Gordon Bombay. He reprised the role in the 1994 sequel “D2: The Mighty Ducks.”
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