Will Smith
(Mimmo Carriero/IPA/Shutterstock)

Will Smith and Apple Pull Upcoming Film Out of Georgia In Protest of Racist Voter Suppression Law

The fallout from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to sign the most racist and restrictive voter suppression bill in the U.S. continues. First, Major League Baseball moved its upcoming All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver. Then, corporations ranging from Delta to Coca-Cola blasted the state and declared the bill as “unacceptable.” And now, Hollywood has entered the protest against the state as well.

The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik has reported that “Apple and Will Smith became the biggest Hollywood entities to take concrete action to leave Georgia as they and director Antoine Fuqua announced plans on Monday [April 12] to move production of their new drama about slavery, Emancipation, out of the state to protest its restrictive new election law.”

According to Zeitchik, the project is the first major entertainment industry exit from the state — and it may not be the last.

“At this moment in time, the nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice. We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” Fuqua and Smith said in a statement. “Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

Production of the historical drama, which cost Apple more than $130 million in film rights, is now moving to Louisiana and scheduled to begin shooting in June.

“The fact-based dramatic thriller features Smith as Peter, an enslaved person who escapes a Louisiana plantation and returns home to the North, where he joins the Union Army,” Zeitchik reported. 

In his later years, Peter sat for a series of photographs showing the shockingly brutal scars on his back from being whipped — images that helped fully illustrate the evilness and horror of slavery to many Northerners who had never fully been exposed to it before.

Outside of Hollywood, Georgia is one of the epicenters for movie and TV production in the United States, with Disney, HBO, Netflix and others all shooting there frequently. How much that will continue, however, appears to be in doubt.

In a statement, entertainment giant ViacomCBS said, “We unequivocally believe in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right.”

Zeitchik reported that, while they didn’t reference the Georgia law or the state specifically, Comcast NBCUniversal (No. 7 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) made a similar statement, saying “efforts to limit or impede access” to voting “are not consistent with our values.”

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.


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