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'Underground Railroad' Director Barry Jenkins Says He Wouldn't Film It In Georgia Now

Director Barry Jenkins holds a microphone as he sits on a bench in his backyard for an interview with our newsroom.
Barry Jenkins, director of "The Underground Railroad," says he wouldn't film the Amazon series in Georgia if he were starting now.
(John Horn
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“The Underground Railroad” was filmed in Georgia well before the state passed a law restricting voting. Had the timing been different, writer-director Barry Jenkins says he wouldn’t have shot his Amazon series there.

“If I was starting right now, I wouldn’t,” said Jenkins during an interview in his L.A. backyard. “I think we all agree that this is pretty damn serious and something must be done.”

The state’s recently-enacted voting law, which critics say makes it harder for Black voters to cast ballots, has been widely condemned, including by two of Georgia’s biggest businesses, the Coca-Cola Co. and Delta Air Lines.

Major League Baseball pulled this summer's All-Star Game from the state, and actor Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua said they will relocate their upcoming film, “Emancipation,” to another state.

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Georgia offers film and television productions generous financial incentives that can trim costs by as much as 30%. By one estimate, moving “Emancipation” out of Georgia could cost the producers $15 million.

We have to somehow harness our collective might and draw the line when enough is enough.
— Barry Jenkins

At the same time, some detractors of the law, including producer Tyler Perry and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, have urged Hollywood not to abandon Georgia, saying leaving the state punishes local workers and that there are other means to oppose the law.

Jenkins, who directed the Oscar-winning “Moonlight,” says he understands that argument, and doesn’t believe that productions currently filming in the state should pack their bags.

But for others considering shooting in Georgia, Jenkins doesn’t think there’s any middle ground: Don’t go there.

“We have to somehow harness our collective might and draw the line when enough is enough,” he said. “And this is enough.”

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