Will Smith’s first starring project since last year’s Oscar win and controversy is on the horizon. Slave drama “Emancipation” will be released on Apple TV+ next month.
Considering Smith’s fallout after slapping Chris Rock onstage at the 2022 ceremony, the “King Richard” best actor winner told reporters this weekend that if fans aren’t ready to watch him onscreen again, he’ll “completely understand.”
Smith, of course, faced wide backlash after slapping Oscars presenter Rock when he made a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s lack of hair, which is a direct result of her having alopecia. After slapping Rock, Smith yelled out to the comedian from his seat, telling him, “Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth.”
Now, as “Emancipation” gears up for release in theaters this week before streaming on Apple TV+ Dec. 9, Smith has expressed his “deepest concern” is that the team he worked with on the movie will be punished for his actions. In a new interview with “Good Day DC” during a round of junket interviews, Smith added that he won’t hold it against audiences if they don’t feel ready to watch him onscreen.
“I completely understand that,” he said. “If, you know, someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready.”
You can watch Smith’s full comments in the video above.
“Emancipation” is based on the true story of Gordon a.k.a. “Whipped Peter,” a runaway slave who allowed photographers to take a picture of his heavily scarred back from years of whipping from plantation owners. The photo became a symbol of the inhumane evils of slavery and one of the most widely circulated photos amongst the abolitionist movement. The film sees Smith play Peter, a slave based on Gordon, as he flees to freedom through the bayous of Louisiana and goes on to become a member of an all-Black Union Army infantry unit during the Civil War.
Following the slap, the actor resigned from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, saying he would accept any further consequences the Academy’s board deems appropriate. Those further consequences included barring Smith from the Oscars for 10 years — but notably did not say that the actor could not be nominated or receive an award for his work.
“Emancipation” hits theaters on Dec. 2, and will premiere on Apple TV+ on Dec. 9.