ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — A St. Petersburg native is making a huge splash in Hollywood. On Sunday, March 27, Will Packer will produce the Oscars Academy Award Show and he will make history while doing it.
“In the 94 years of this show, there’s never been an all-black producing team,” Will Packer told ABC News.
This weekend, Packer will change that.
“The people I put on that stage and in that platform, I want them to look like people from all stripes, all industries, various backgrounds but all movie lovers. That’s the common denominator and that’s what’s important,” Packer elaborated.
As he makes history, his colleagues at St. Petersburg High School, where he graduated from in 1991, are reflecting on their own history.
“William was voted most likely to succeed and obviously that vote was not in vain,” added Kiya Broughton who grew up with Packer and attended middle and high school with him. Broughton now teaches theatre and TV production at St. Petersburg High School. Packer’s legacy is making an impact on her students.
“It just gives them an opportunity to see dreams can come true and all you have to do is strive and work hard,” she said.
Bill Grey, Packer’s former St. Pete High Principal, says he knew one day that Packer would go on to do something outstanding.
“William was destined to be a prominent person in our society,” he explained.
When Grey watches the Oscars on Sunday, he’ll think back to 1991 when Packer, then a high school senior, danced in a talent show to Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean.
“He did the moonwalk across the stage and it just brought the house down,” he said with a laugh.
Packer tells our team at Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend that he hopes his story will inspire kids to reach for the stars and learn that hard work often pays off.
“I grew up in South St. Pete and didn’t have a lot of Hollywood connections, but I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve always been somebody who believes in working hard. Representation matters. Imaging matters. There is some kid out there that says ‘I don’t look like all the 94 other Oscars producers, but I look like that guy,” he said pointing towards himself. “Hopefully I can inspire other folks to say ‘hey, look at Packer. He went to public school in the Tampa Bay Area. If he did it, I can do it.’”
St. Pete leaders are hosting an Academy Awards Watch Party Sunday at the Woodson African American Museum of Florida. The outdoor party will begin at 7:45 p.m. with a speech from St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch, the city’s first African American Mayor.
Sunday’s Oscar coverage will begin at 8 p.m. Sunday and can be watched on ABC Action News.