Will Smith says he “completely understands” if audiences aren’t ready to watch him on screen as he promotes his first film since he slapped Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars, but he hopes his actions won’t “penalise” the film, which is being released in the lead-up to awards season.
In a television interview with Fox 5, the actor acknowledged people’s mixed feelings about watching him act again, ahead of the release of the slavery drama Emancipation, directed by Antoine Fuqua, and Smith’s first major project since the ceremony.
“I completely understand that, if someone is not ready,” Smith told Fox 5. “My deepest concern is my team. Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work in his entire career … the people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalize my team.
Emancipation tells the story of an escaped slave Gordon, also known as “Whipped Peter”, who was the subject of famous photographs documenting the scarring on his back from whippings he received. The shocking images were published around the world in 1863, fuelling the abolitionist movement.
The film’s release was delayed in May, partly due to concerns about the aftermath of Smith’s actions at the Academy Awards. It will be released in US theatres this week before it streams on Apple TV+ from 9 December.