Will Smith at EMANCIPATION European Premiere

Here Is How Will Smith Really Feels About His 'Emancipation' Role

Home / Stars / Here Is How Will Smith Really Feels About His 'Emancipation' Role

By Afouda Bamidele on August 8, 2023 at 3:30 PM EDT
Updated on August 9, 2023 at 8:15 AM EDT

Will Smith has shared some insight into the lengths he went to while shooting the film, "Emancipation."

The renowned and multi-award-winning actor admitted that he felt he had pushed the boundaries as an actor, mainly when he had to take on the role of a runaway slave in the 2022-released drama.

The Antoine Fuqua-directed film, which came after Smith's infamous incident at the Oscars, drew inspiration from historical events, notably the story of Peter, a formerly enslaved person whose scar-ridiculed back was photographed in 1863.

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Will Smith 'Went Too Far' In Portraying An Enslaved Person In 'Emancipation'

Although he has always given his all to whatever character he is portraying, Smith seemingly took things up a notch when he took on the role of the runaway slave in "Emancipation." He spoke about his experience during an appearance on a recent episode of comedian and actor Kevin Hart's talk show "Hart to Heart," where he began:

"I went too far in 'Emancipation.' Just bringing it up, I start to get teary. I wanted to feel the degradation of slavery, and I went too far in. That level of human brutality…what people would do to each other. You know, I had the chains on my neck, and we were working. I wanted the real weight of them. I wanted real chains. They put it on my neck, and they were fitting it for size, and the prop master went to put the key in, and it didn't work."

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///Will Smith scaled
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He recalled "standing there" while his counterparts ran around, looking for ways to get the chains off him with no luck. "I'm standing there in those chains, right on that hyperventilating edge," the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" actor elaborated before adding that confronting "that level of atrocity" left a profound effect on him, turning him toward God.

"I wouldn't give it back. It was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had as an actor. Peter introduced me to God. My faith got solid after working on that movie," Smith conclusively confessed to Hart.

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Despite the "Bad Boys" lead's shocking revelation, it would not be the only time "Emancipation" integrated real-life actions. The Blast noted that in December 2022, the 54-year-old disclosed that an unnamed actor, who had also gotten too deep into character, spat on his face while filming. He stated during an episode of "Red Table Talk":

"One of the first days on set, there is a scene with one of the actors, and he leans down in my face and says, 'You a cold one, ain't you?' and then he ad-libbed," the actor recalled.

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As he narrated the events, Smith demonstrated spitting on his daughter, Willow, prompting his other children, including Trey and Jaden, to break into laughter. He then continued, "I was like, 'Makeup!' No, but it was like . . . I was like, whoa, every actor on this set was taking it really, really seriously." 

The Hollywood Project Has Earned Zero Nominations From Notable Award Outfits

Despite the actors' dedication to bringing a realistic character portrayal in the Apple drama, it was snubbed mainly by a well-known award academy.

As The Blast reported in December 2022, Smith did not expect the project to be ignored at the 2023 Golden Globe Awards as he assumed that enough time had passed since he infamously slapped Chris Rock on the stage of last year's Oscars. In fact, as an insider put it:

"Will knows it's a long road to redemption, and a lot of folks won't forgive him. But this really rams it home." 

The lack of nominations and equally low ratings allegedly affected the "Aladdin" actor so severely that he regretted not delaying the release of "Emancipation." To add salt to injury, his good friend, Tom Cruise, has reportedly been ignoring him.

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Per the same source, Smith has approached the "Mission Impossible" actor multiple times in an attempt "to reconnect and see if they can brainstorm on some projects together."

"A solid movie with Tom would guarantee Will's comeback, or so he thinks. Will has even offered to fly to London if that's more convenient, but Tom isn't biting and doesn't even write him back," they explained further.

The insider also claimed that Cruise would not be "stupid enough to put his neck on the line and be dragged down by association," especially for somebody like Smith, who is "still kryptonite."

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