Carroll O'Connor, executive producer and star of the NBC series "In the Heat of the Night," says he will take legal action against the tabloid that published a story saying that he has fired co-star Howard Rollins.
"The article published in the Dec. 26, 1989, edition of the National Enquirer is totally unfounded and deliberately false," said O'Connor. "I am going to sue this strange pathogenic publication for its malicious statements."
Rollins entered a hospital several weeks ago after having chest pains. Although tests showed he had no coronary problems, the actor decided to take some time off, O'Connor said.
"We are all expecting him to return to work in the near future as soon as he is able to physically withstand our very strenuous work schedule," O'Connor said.
He called Rollins a "vital part of the series," adding, "I miss him professionally and personally and want him back on the set."
David Gerber, chairman and chief executive officer of MGM/UA Television Production Group Inc., said the show, which is filmed on location in the Covington, Ga., area, may rely on guest appearances by other actors while Rollins recuperates.
"We are deeply concerned about Howard's well-being," said Gerber. "The rigors of filming a television series can be quite stressful and in order to make sure that Howard is physically capable of continuing with his role, we are discussing with him whether he can withstand the physical demands of our location filming schedule," Gerber said.
"In the Heat of the Night" will shut down production for the holidays Friday and resume Jan. 2.