Actor Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua announced on Monday that their upcoming film production “Emancipation” will no longer take place in Georgia in response to the state’s restrictive voting law.
Produced and financed by Apple Studios, Smith and Fuqua’s slavery-era drama is the first major production to directly point to the new Georgia law in their decision to relocate its production out of the state.
“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,” Smith and Fuqua said in a joint statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access.”
Smith and Fuqua liken the new Georgia voting law to “voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction” that restricted voting access for many Americans.
“Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state,” Smith and Fuqua said.
The film, which is scheduled to begin production this summer, features Smith playing a character based off of a real-life enslaved man named Peter, who joined the Union Army after emancipating himself from a Southern plantation.
Boycotts in reaction to the new law in Georgia, which offers significant tax incentives to Hollywood productions, has faced criticism from activists such as Stacey Abrams, who argue that the move unfairly impacts Georgians’ livelihoods that depend on large events and productions in the state.
After corporations with Georgia ties came out against the new state law, following days of mounting backlash over their initial muted opposition to the legislation, the MLB decided to relocate its All-Star Game and 2021 draft out of Atlanta in response to the legislation’s restrictive provisions.
Although President Biden cheered on the MLB’s decision, not all prominent figures who had spoken out against the state’s law applauded the move.
Former American Express CEO Ken Chenault, who led a group of dozens of Black corporate executives urging more corporations to speak out against Georgia’s new voting law, decried the MLB’s boycott earlier this month. Chenault told CNN that the issue of voting rights restrictions isn’t only limited to Georgia, and that he and other Black executives demanded that corporations publicly oppose legislation that works to restrict voting access. Chenault made clear that the group “does not favor boycotts.”