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Georgia: The New Hollywood For Young Actors

Shannon Purser, who grew up in Roswell, got her big break playing Barb on the hit Netflix show "Stranger Things," which is filmed around Georgia. "A lot of people in Georgia kind of feel, automatically, a connection to me, which is really nice,” she said.
Shannon Purser, who grew up in Roswell, got her big break playing Barb on the hit Netflix show "Stranger Things," which is filmed around Georgia. "A lot of people in Georgia kind of feel, automatically, a connection to me, which is really nice,” she said.
Credit AL SUCH / WABE

Television shows like “Stranger Things” and movies like “The Avengers” have not only showcased Georgia’s landscape but also some actors from the Atlanta area.

So, are we becoming the new Hollywood for young actors?

Shannon Purser got her big break playing Barb on the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things.” But before her stardom, she grew up in Roswell and still attends Kennesaw State University.

“To have an opportunity where I could literally just get in my car and drive 30 minutes to work and, you know, go act and then come home and be in my bed was really, kind of, the perfect scenario,” Purser says.

Purser says the proximity allowed her to finish high school, too — something she wouldn’t have been able to do if she moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting.

After Barb became an internet phenomenon, Purser says the way fans approach her in Georgia is different than anywhere else.

“A lot of people in Georgia kind of feel, automatically, a connection to me, which is really nice. Whereas with other places, they know Barb, but they don’t really care much about who you are as a person. They just want you to sign something,” Purser says.

Kyanna Simone Simpson spent time in LA, but it wasn’t until she came back to Decatur that she started booking acting jobs, like her role in the HBO movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” starring Oprah Winfrey. She says even the audition process is different.

“In LA, I will say, when you go to auditions, everyone is pretty used to it. No one is really talking to each other. You go and you do your thing. In Atlanta, everyone knows each other,” Simpson says.

Isabella Amara, who was most recently in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” says the actor community in Georgia is small, but tight knit. She says it comes from the fact that, for a while, film studios only went to New York and LA for actors.

“Georgia was the first place to break the barrier, and that’s why we’re so helpful with each other and we’re always so loving. Because we want all of us to succeed. We want everyone here to show everywhere else, you know, we can be just as good as you, too,” Amara says.

Amara says the industry in Atlanta is growing and the actor pool is only getting denser by the day. She says, if anything, actors are now coming to Georgia for their big break, not to Hollywood.