Disney has officially joined Netflix in questioning its future in Georgia should the state’s recent anti-abortion law take effect in 2020, as more actors like Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner announce their intention to boycott. While the studio didn’t go so far as to condemn the law, like Netflix, Disney CEO Bob Iger did say it would make it no longer “practical for us to continue to shoot there.”
io9 had previously reached out to Disney as part of a larger story on Hollywood’s response to the legislation. They did not return our request for comment but in an interview with Reuters at the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, its CEO expressed concerns about Disney’s future in the state if the so-called “heartbeat bill” is enacted. But, when asked whether Disney would continue filming in Georgia if the law takes effect, this was Iger’s response:
“I rather doubt we will,” he said. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.”
The studio filmed parts of Marvel’s Black Panther and both of the latest Avengers movies there, and with several Disney+ shows in the works, the state is poised to see a lot of growth.
“I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there,” Iger added.
The anti-abortion law, which was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp earlier this month, makes almost all abortions illegal after six weeks. This would impact millions of people who give birth in the state, including the thousands of people employed by these studios. Thanks to a series of generous tax breaks for studios and production companies, Georgia has become largely dependent on the filmmaking industry.
However, this new law has some of those studios speaking out and questioning their future in the state—along with actors and other industry professionals. For example, in a recent interview with Sky News, Dark Phoenix stars Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner said they would no longer film in states with strong anti-abortion laws, referencing a petition they’d signed back in April that expressed their opposition to the then-bill.
“There’s a letter going around that I signed saying I’m not going to work in any state that denies rights for women, for the LGBTQ community, for anyone,” Chastain said. “I’m not going to work in a state that discriminates.”
“I signed it too. I have yet to tell my agents I signed it,” Turner added. “They’re going to be like: ‘What? You can’t work in these states?’ Yeah, I can’t work in these states.”
It’s unclear how many actors who’d signed the petition are likewise treating the petition as a boycott, as it was officially a declaration that they would “no longer recommend” studios take new projects there. It’s also important to note that Northern Ireland, where much of Game of Thrones was filmed, has even stricter anti-abortion laws than Georgia or other U.S. states. When asked about this during the interview, Turner said: “Luckily, we’re moving on.”
The ACLU and other groups have already announced challenges to Georgia’s anti-abortion law, and there’s a belief that it will get blocked in the courts before it could actually take effect. Of course, the biggest concern is whether one of these state’s laws will end up before the Supreme Court, which risks the future of Roe v. Wade and access to safe and legal abortions in the U.S.
Update: WarnerMedia has released a statement to Deadline, saying the studio is also considering whether it will continue filming projects in Georgia is the law is enacted (io9 previously reached out for comment but did not get a response). Here is the statement in full:
We operate and produce work in many states and within several countries at any given time—and while that doesn’t mean we agree with every position taken by a state or a country and their leaders, we do respect due process.
We will watch the situation closely, and if the new law holds we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions. As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine how and where to shoot any given project.
Update 2: AMC, which is currently filming The Walking Dead in Georgia, has released its own statement (io9 previously reached out for comment but did not get a response). The network calls the law “highly restrictive,” and says it will reevaluate its future in Georgia if enacted. Here is the statement in full, as reported by The Wrap:
If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will reevaluate our activity in Georgia. Similar bills—some even more restrictive—have passed in multiple states and have been challenged. This is likely to be a long and complicated fight, and we are watching it all very closely.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.