Will Smith Says He Was ‘Conflicted’ Over ‘Concussion’ Role

“I was almost called to be an activist against myself,” the actor says about his role in the NFL drama

Will Smith
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Amid all of the controversy that the football drama “Concussion” is stirring up, Will Smith says he was conflicted over playing the role of Bennet Omalu in the film.

“As an actor, you live for that type of delicious peculiarity,” Smith told GQ. “He is such a unique being. As an actor, I was excited. But as a lover of football, I was conflicted. I was almost called to be an activist against myself.”

In “Concussion,” Smith plays Omalu, a young forensic neuropathologist form Nigeria who made the first discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a football-related brain trauma, in a pro football player. In the film, he takes on the National Football League, which does everything in its power to undermine his claims.

“This type of movie checks all of the boxes of who I want to be,” Smith added. “The type of human I want to grow into in this lifetime.”

The film has been said to shed negative light on the NFL. One of its trailers suggests the league tried to strong-arm Omalu into burying evidence of the affliction and its risks for football players. “You’re going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week,” a fellow doctor (Albert Brooks) advises Smith’s Omalu, referring to the sacrosanct American tradition of Sunday football.

The league is bracing for more mainstream attention on CTE while setting up its defense, however, the NFL maintains that the issue is one of its top concerns.

“We are encouraged by the ongoing focus on the critical issue of player health and safety. We have no higher priority,” Jeff Miller, NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy, said in a statement to TheWrap in September.

“Concussion” hits theaters on Christmas Day, and stars Smith, Luke Wilson, Alec Baldwin, Stephen MoyerGugu Mbatha-Raw and Albert Brooks.