'Walking Dead' Sounds Off On 'Highly Restrictive' Heartbeat Bill
GEORGIA — The cable network AMC — which films the hit zombie series “The Walking Dead” — is the latest entertainment company to weigh in on the film industry’s protest of the state’s restrictive “heartbeat” bill, which has had many celebrities calling for statewide boycotts. AMC joins Disney and Netflix, which have already voiced opinions on Georgia’s newly signed abortion bill.
“If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will re-evaluate our activity in Georgia,” an AMC spokesperson said in a statement to Forbes on Friday. “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.”
Actor Tom Payne, who played Paul “Jesus” Rovia on the series, told TooFab he supports moving the show’s production out of the state. “I think the right thing is to look after people and women and women’s rights with their own bodies and I think it’s tough if you put people in a position where their health is at risk because they can’t get access to medical procedures that you need.”
AMC films “The Walking Dead” in Georgia, but has expanded filming to Virginia and Washington D.C., Vanity Fair reported. Georgia is still considered the home location for the series, with many cast and crew members having homes in the state. The spinoff series, “Fear The Walking Dead,” films outside of Georgia, including in Vancouver to Texas, while a second spinoff is also said to be filming in Virginia, Vanity Fair reported.
Last week, just days after Netflix said it decided to stay in Georgia for the time being, although it will join the fight to overturn the law, Disney CEO Bob Iger told Reuters it would be “very difficult” for the media powerhouse to continue to film in Georgia if the so-called Heartbeat Bill is implemented in 2020.
When Reuters asked if Disney would continue to film in the Georgia, Iger said it would be “very difficult to do so,” and that he doesn’t “see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there” if the bill is implemented next year. The Heartbeat Bill will outlaw most abortions after six weeks once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
“I rather doubt we will,” Iger said in an interview ahead of the dedication for a new “Star Wars” section at Disneyland, Reuters reported. “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.”
Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in an exclusive statement to Variety that the company is also closely monitoring the bill.
“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Sarandos said. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
Until recently, no film or production company now doing business in Georgia has announced it was ceasing any projects in the wake of the new law. Alyssa Milano, who is considered one of the bill’s strongest opponents, is still filming the Netflix series “Insatiable” in Georgia because, she told BuzzFeed News, she is contractually obligated to do so.
Hollywood executive J.J. Abrams and his company, Bad Robot, along with Jordan Peele and Monkeypaw Productions, are filming an upcoming HBO series in Georgia. The companies are donating all proceeds from “Lovecraft Country” to Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams’ organization, Fair Fight Georgia, and the ACLU of Georgia.
Georgia is one of the world’s top locations for film and TV production, mostly due to tax breaks and other policies that Gov. Brian Kemp’s predecessor, Nathan Deal, endorsed. However, two upcoming productions in Georgia are the state’s first entertainment casualties as a result of the so-called heartbeat Bill.
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Amazon’s series “The Power” is the first TV production to leave Georgia because of the heartbeat bill. Emmy-winning director Reed Morano is pulling the Amazon series from shooting in Georgia. Also, actress Kristin Wiig and her collaborator, Annie Mumolo, have canceled shoots in Georgia for their upcoming film “Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar.”
The bill, authored by a suburban Atlanta Republican lawmaker, would allow abortions in cases where the mother’s life or health is in danger, or in cases of medical emergency. It also says an unborn child at any stage of development in the womb would be included in state population-based counts.
In 2017, Georgia was the location for 15 of the year’s 100 top-grossing films — good for second place behind Canada, where 20 such movies were produced. A year earlier, Georgia had topped the list with 17 of the year’s most popular features, beating out the United Kingdom, Canada and California.
Patch Editors Tim Darnell and John Barker contributed to this article.