Film Exec Known for His Diversity Efforts Allegedly Sent Racist, Antisemitic Texts (Report)

Ryan Millsap, former CEO and owner of Blackhall Studios, made a name for himself in Atlanta as an executive who encouraged diversity. But, per a report published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ProPublica, he may not have been as pro-diversity and inclusion as he appeared.

This week, ProPublica staffer Nicole Carr and Atlanta Journal-Constitution senior editor Mike Jordan published an investigation that looked into hundreds of pages of text messages between Millsap and his ex-girlfriend, Christy Hockmeyer, that were submitted as evidence in a lawsuit against him.

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His texts, mostly from 2019, included comments about “Fucking Black people” and “nasty Jews,” as well as other racist and antisemitic views. The pages were released due to a legal dispute, which includes various filings, between the real estate developer and his former attorney, John Da Grosa Smith.

“Ryan’s public persona is different from who he is,” Smith wrote in one of the filings. He added, “Ryan works hard to mislead and hide the truth. And he is very good at it.”

The Hollywood Reporter reached out to a representative for Smith for comment.

The texts and additional court records in the story made it clear that Hockmeyer, who was an investor in Millsap’s real estate company, played an active role in his business dealings, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ProPublica.

In one of their conversations, the two were discussing Millsap’s desire to hire an executive who was well-known in Atlanta’s film industry, and Hockmeyer suggested he poach someone from Tyler Perry Studios, the 12-stage lot named after the iconic Black filmmaker. “Taking someone from Tyler Perry would be fine too,” Hockmeyer wrote in a text, according to a court filing, adding, “As long as they are white.” She also said she had another person he could consider, noting, “he’s even a Jew. That’s good for this role,” to which Millsap responded, “Teeny tiniest Jew.”

When the reporters reached out to the film exec about an interview tied to their investigation, he told them that this “sounds like a strange situation” and asked “how this came up.” He requested to review the material they had gathered, which they provided, and then he stopped responding to their multiple requests for comment.

In a statement to THR on Sunday, Millsap said: “In the aftermath of an explosive litigation, a former attorney of mine violated the most basic and fundamental principle of attorney client privilege and released private text messages between myself and a former romantic partner. I won the case against him, was awarded punitive damages, and will, additionally, be filing a formal complaint with the state of Georgia in an effort to see him held accountable for his extraordinary lack of professionalism. Unfortunately, in the course of this litigation, comments which I never intended to share publicly have come to light, and people I care about and who have put their trust in me have been hurt. I want to extend my sincere apologies to my dear friends, colleagues and associates in both the black and Jewish communities for any and all pain my words have caused.  My sincere hope is that the bonds and friendships that we have forged speak far louder than some flippant, careless remarks.  I intend to work privately with all of you to use this as an opportunity to have a healthy and authentic dialogue about race and culture, in a productive, not destructive, manner.”

Hockmeyer responded to the reporters’ initial request, explaining that she severed all ties with him years ago because their “values, ethics and beliefs did not align.” She added, per the story, “I consistently encouraged Mr. Millsap to treat his investors and community supporters with fairness and respect.”

In another email, she apologized for her part in the racist and antisemitic conversations she had with the real estate developer. “I made comments and used language that was inappropriate,” she wrote. “I referred to people in ways I shouldn’t have. I’m sincerely sorry for what I said. Those comments do not reflect who I am, and I disavow racism and antisemitism as a whole.”

Blackhall Studios attracted massive productions — including Venom, Lovecraft Country and Godzilla: King of Monsters — and was looking to expand in 2019 through a land swap with the county. Millsap’s pitch to the community for the expansion included a $3.8 million plan that featured public improvements, like a new park, according to ProPublica. He also noted the expansion, which would triple the studio’s soundstages, would help create thousands of jobs for community members.

In 2021, Millsap sold Blackhall Studios for $120 million, and the following year, he announced he was planning on building a new complex in Newton County, Georgia, about 40 miles east of Atlanta.

April 21, 10:05 a.m. Updated with Millsap’s statement to THR.

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