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Will Smith Movie Emancipation Will Not Shoot in Georgia Over Voting Restrictions

Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith. Photo-Illustration: by Vulture; Photos by Getty Images

Emancipation, an upcoming Apple TV+ movie following a runaway slave, is changing plans to shoot in Georgia over the state’s newly passed restrictions on voting. Director Antoine Fuqua and star Will Smith announced the news on April 12, after it was first reported by Deadline. “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, per Deadline. “The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting.” The movie is reportedly looking to shoot in Louisiana — coincidentally where part of the story played out in history, when Peter (played by Smith) escaped a plantation after a near-fatal whipping. Peter’s whipping became national news in 1863, when he joined the Union Army and a photo of his back scars, noticed during a medical examination, was published in HarperÆs Weekly.

The move makes Emancipation the first major production to exit Georgia after Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill on March 26. Widely criticized as racist and undemocratic, the law includes new ID requirements for voters and restricts ballot drop boxes, among other provisions. Some Atlanta-based companies, including Coca-Cola and Delta, have spoken out against the law, while the MLB announced the All-Star Game will no longer take place in Georgia this season. Yet Deadline reported that Georgia voting-rights proponents like Stacey Abrams have been meeting with filmmakers about Georgia-based productions to ask them to keep their business in the state, popular for movie and TV shoots thanks to tax rebates. Abrams told the Associated Press that boycotting business in Georgia would not be “beneficial to the victims of these bills,” while still calling on companies to speak out against the law.

Will Smith Film Emancipation Leaving Georgia Over Voting Law