Atlanta producer Will Packer donates $500K to FAMU, prepping to produce the Oscars

What Men Want: Will Packer On Taraji P. Henson's Character
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What Men Want: Will Packer On Taraji P. Henson's Character

Packer’s known for films ‘Girls Trip,’ ‘Ride Along’ and ‘Think Like a Man.’

Atlanta producer Will Packer, known for films “Think Like a Man,” “Ride Along” and “Girls Trip,” donated $500,000 to his alma mater Florida A&M for an amphitheater that is now named after him.

The 1996 electrical engineering graduate said he loves historically black colleges and wanted to give back in a big way. Last Friday, Packer joined a ceremony with several of his friends including actor Kevin Hart, R&B singer Anthony Hamilton, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta media personality Rashan Ali. ESPN aired a live broadcast of the amphitheater christening while Hart taped his podcast on site.

“It’s so huge,” Packer said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before the ceremony in Tallahassee, Florida. “It’s an honor of a lifetime. I’ve reached the point where I think about legacy. We are not the sum of our accomplishments while we’re here on earth. It is the people we affect and touch and what we leave behind. I take that very seriously.”

Packer is busy working on several projects but the big one is producing the Oscars next year.

Although he has more than four months before the event, he said he’s already waist deep in prep work. “It takes a big chunk of time,” he said. “I need every second I can get.”

Packer, aware that Academy Award ratings have dropped sharply in recent years, said he’s not concerned about the pressure and inevitable critique of whatever he does.

“I know it’s a tough job,” he said. “But I’ve always been fearless. I have an iron constitution. I know I won’t please everybody. Whether it’s remaking ‘Roots’ or directing the biggest awards show in the world, everyone will have an opinion.”

Then he went into sports coach mode, adding, “You have to trust your own instincts, give 110% and feel good about it.”

While Packer is best known for films, his OWN reality dating show “Ready to Love” has been a hit. Season five in D.C. is airing now. He loves that the audience has responded to a show that focuses on men and women in their 30s and 40s, older than shows like “The Bachelor.”

“These are real people and viewers feel like they know them,” Packer said. “It amazes me how serious fans take this.”

He also has an upcoming movie called “Beast” starring Idris Elba, which was shot in South Africa and is set to hit theaters in the summer of 2022. “He is on the run in the African bush with his two daughters,” Packer said. “He’s trying to avoid a vicious lion. It’s a balls-to-the-walls white knuckle adventure.”

As a largely outdoor shoot in the elements, he said this is far different from shooting, say, the comedy “Night School” in Atlanta.

“The worst issues there I have to deal with is traffic, maybe the weather,” Packer said. “Shooting in the bush meant a long list of safety issues. Bugs. Snakes of all types. And we were in the middle of COVID. We took safety very seriously. It was challenging but we wanted this film to feel real and authentic, not green-screened and CGIed.” (Then again, the lion is CGIed.)

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