Will Smith has officially made his first in-person appearance on an awards stage since he slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars nearly a year ago.
On Wednesday (March 1), Smith attended the African American Film Critics Association Awards, accepting the Beacon Award alongside his Emancipation director Antoine Fuqua, per the Hollywood Reporter.
“The Beacon Award is intended to highlight films that are tackling challenging subjects with insight, enlightening, as well as engaging the audience,” Fuqua began the acceptance speech. “It was our hope that Emancipation, that it would be able to bring Peter’s triumphant story and unwavering faith and his deep love for his family to life.”
“Emancipation was the most individual difficult film of my entire career,” the Emancipation star said. “It’s really difficult to transport a modern mind to that time period. It’s difficult to imagine that, that level of inhumanity.”
Smith, who portrays an enslaved man named Peter in the AppleTV+ movie, went on to recall his experience while filming.
“It was the second day of shooting and 110 degrees,” he said. “I was in a scene with one of the white actors, and we had our lines, and the actor decided to ad-lib. So, we’re doing the scene. I did my line. He did his line. And then he ad-libbed and spit in the middle of my chest. If I had pearls on, I definitely would’ve clutched them. I wanted to say, ‘Antoineeeeee,’ but I stopped, and I realized that Peter couldn’t have called the director.”
He continued, “I sat there, and I took a deep breath, and we did take two, and the actor felt that the ad-lib had gone well. So, we do take two. I do my line. He does his line and spits in the middle of my chest again. I just held in that moment, and there was a part — it makes me teary right now — there was a part of me that was grateful that I got to really understand. And then, in the distance, I hear a voice, and Antoine says, ‘Hey, let’s do a take without the spit.’ And in that moment, I knew that God was real.”
Smith’s attendance at the AAFCA’s marked his first public appearance in this awards circuit. Smith was notably absent from the NAACP Image Awards, where he won Best Actor for Emancipation.
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