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Will Smith’s Film Production Leaves Georgia Due To State’s Restrictive Voting Law

The actor issued a joint statement with director Antoine Fuqua saying they “cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws.”

Will Smith attends the Premiere of "Bad Boys for Life" at TCL Chinese Theatre on January 14, 2020 in Hollywood, California | Getty Images
Will Smith attends the Premiere of "Bad Boys for Life" at TCL Chinese Theatre on January 14, 2020 in Hollywood, California | Getty Images

Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua announced on Monday they would be relocating production for their upcoming film “Emancipation” out of Georgia due to the state's new voting law that many say drastically restricts access for Black voters. The film is based on a true story that follows an enslaved man’s journey to freedom.

In a statement to multiple outlets, Smith and Fuqua said their decision came as the U.S. comes to terms with “its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism.”

“We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” the statement continued. “The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and fellow Republicans have come under fire after passing legislation in March that places new restrictions on voting by mail — which millions of people nationwide chose as their method of voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and banning people from handing out food or drink to voters waiting in line. Activists, organizations, and major brands have all spoken out against the voting legislation and said that it will disproportionately affect Black voters.

Major League Baseball announced earlier this month it would relocate the 2021 All-Star game and the MLB draft out of Atlanta in response to the bill. Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, two major Georgia-based companies, have also expressed disappointment in the law — prompting Republican calls for boycotts.

Smith’s film, which is backed by Apple Studios, was set to start production in June, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It is now expected to relocate to Louisiana, which could reportedly cost the production $15 million.

Georgia has become a hub for major film productions in recent years after former Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) passed a tax incentive for filming in 2008. Shows including “The Walking Dead” have been shot in Georgia, while Marvel has filmed parts of “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in the state.

“Emancipation” is based on the true story of an enslaved person named Peter, played by Smith, who escapes a plantation in the South, eventually becoming a soldier in the Union Army. While in a Union camp, photographs were taken of Peter's back showing the whipping scars covering the whole of his back. Those photographs, known as “The Scourged Back,” were published in Harper's Weekly and showed many in the North the horrors and brutality of slavery not otherwise realized before.

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