When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, guidelines for the safety of actors have changed as frequently as the CDC guidelines. So, what are the most current COVID-19 safety protocols? Should you be masked at work? Are vaccines required?
Below, Backstage breaks down the COVID-19 safety guidelines for stage and screen actors.
FILM + TV PROTOCOLS
What are the safety guidelines for film and TV actors?
The COVID-19 safety guidelines for film and TV workers are agreed upon jointly by SAG-AFTRA, Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Basic Crafts, and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers.
The safety guidelines are divided into “strict protocols” and “less strict protocols.” When COVID-19 transmission rates are high (above 1.1%) in the city where the shoot is located, the set will implement the strict protocols. When transmission rates are below 1.1%, the less strict protocols will apply.
Are vaccines mandated for actors on set?
SAG-AFTRA does not mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for actors, but the union allows producers to mandate vaccinations on a production-by-production basis, as a condition of employment.
Under the COVID-19 safety protocols agreed upon by the various Hollywood unions, a set is divided into different zones, and workers in one zone cannot physically interact with workers in another zone. On a film or TV set, a producer is allowed to mandate vaccines for anyone in Zone A, which include actors and anyone who comes in direct contact with them, such as the director and hair and makeup.
Do fully vaccinated film and TV actors still need to be tested for COVID-19?
Yes. Under the strict protocols, fully vaccinated actors need to be tested for COVID-19 three times a week if they work for five or more days a week. Actors who work fewer than five days a week only need to be tested, at most, 72 hours before the day they’re scheduled to be on set.
Under the less strict protocols, fully vaccinated actors only need to be tested once a week.
Do fully vaccinated film and TV actors need to be masked?
Under the strict protocols, fully vaccinated actors do not need to wear a mask outdoors, but they do need to wear one indoors. Under the less strict protocols, fully vaccinated actors only need to wear masks when they’re riding in an enclosed vehicle; they do not need to wear a mask indoors if the set is well-ventilated.
Are there exemptions for mandatory vaccinations for screen actors?
Yes. Producers must provide exceptions for people with a disability or a sincerely held religious belief. There must also be exemptions for people who cannot be vaccinated, such as children under the age of 12.
What about actors who are not vaccinated?
Unvaccinated actors need to be masked at all times, unless they’re eating or drinking or on set. They must also be tested for COVID-19 three times per week.
Is there sick leave for COVID-19?
Yes. Actors are given 10 days of paid sick leave per production, which they can use to get vaccinated or if they need to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.
Where can I read more about the COVID-19 safety protocols for screen actors?
More information can be found on SAG-AFTRA’s website.
What are the safety guidelines for theater actors?
Actors’ Equity Association, the union for theater actors, has different safety protocols depending on the type of show being produced. For example, the safety rules for a Broadway show are different from the safety rules for a regional theater production. For more detailed safety protocols, consult the corresponding Equity contract.
Do theater actors need to be vaccinated?
The rules vary depending on what kind of production contract you are working under. For instance, Broadway actors and actors doing tours are required to be vaccinated. And in New York City in particular, any workers who are employed by an indoor live performance venue are required to be vaccinated—a city-wide mandate, not a rule set by Equity.
Outside NYC, the union does not require that actors be vaccinated, but producers are allowed to institute a vaccine mandate.
Do fully vaccinated stage actors still need to be tested for COVID-19?
It depends. Under the Broadway contract, fully vaccinated actors will need to be tested once a week. For other non-touring productions, regular COVID-19 testing is not required.
Do fully vaccinated stage actors need to be masked?
No. Fully vaccinated stage actors will not need to be masked onstage or backstage.
Are there exceptions to mandatory vaccinations for stage actors?
Yes. Producers who mandate vaccines must provide exceptions for people who cannot be vaccinated, either because of their age, because they have a medical condition that prevents them from being vaccinated, or because of a sincerely held religious belief.
Are producers allowed to have shows with unvaccinated companies?
For productions outside of New York City, yes. Equity has separate safety guidelines for shows whose cast is unvaccinated. Equity defines “unvaccinated workplaces” as shows where vaccinated and unvaccinated actors regularly interact. In those shows, everyone needs to be tested at least once a week. If infection rates are high locally, unvaccinated actors must be tested two to three times a week.
Unvaccinated actors must also wear masks at all times, except when they’re rehearsing or performing. When singing, unvaccinated actors must stand at least 12 feet apart with plexiglass barriers between them.
Is there sick leave?
Somewhat—the policies vary depending on the contract. Broadway actors can receive paid sick leave if they are ill from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, or if they test positive for the virus and need to quarantine. Actors in other productions can receive paid sick leave if they are mandated to get the vaccine and become sick from doing so. If they have to be isolated because they test positive for COVID-19, producers need to cover their food, groceries, laundry, and medications and put them up in a separate living facility if they normally do not live alone.
Where can I read more about the COVID-19 safety protocols for stage actors?
Equity has general information about COVID-19 safety protocols on its website. For more in-depth information, Equity members can log into the website to find safety protocols for every type of production.
Looking for remote work? Backstage has got you covered! Click here for auditions you can do from home!