Will Smith Knows Not Everyone's Ready For His Comeback

Will Smith Knows Not Everyone's Ready For His Comeback

by Justine Fisher

As Will Smith embarks on his first press tour since the Oscars slap, he says he would “completely understand” if audiences aren’t ready for his comeback.

Emancipation is the actor’s first major film performance since slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars over a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The movie premieres in theaters on December 2, less than a year after the incident. Addressing the timing, Smith told journalist Kevin McCarthy, “If someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready."

The upcoming drama, which is based on a true story, is directed by Antoine Fuqua. Smith added: “My deepest concern is my team — Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work of 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.”

Smith stars in Emancipation as Peter or “Whipped Peter,” a figure whose scarring helped illuminate the brutality of slavery. The film tracks Peter’s escape from a Louisiana plantation. Smith went on to say: “I’m hoping that the material — the power of the film, the timeliness of the story — I’m hoping that the good that can be done would open people’s hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”

Fuqua echoed Smith’s sentiment in an interview earlier this month with Vanity Fair. In light of the Oscars slap, the director defended Smith’s performance and the 2022 release of Emancipation. “The film to me is bigger than that moment. Four hundred years of slavery is bigger than one moment," he said.

Emancipation will also stream on Apple TV+ beginning on December 9. In discussing his collaboration with Apple, Fuqua said they never intended to halt the movie’s release, though they did have a “full conversation” about the incident. He added: “We were in Hollywood, and there’s been some really ugly things that have taken place, and we’ve seen a lot of people get awards that have done some really nasty things.”

Emancipation seems to say Hollywood has forgiven Will Smith. But do his fans?

Photo via Getty/ Neilson Barnard