While the hope of Apple TV Oscar Emancipation is making its way into the race for awards, all eyes are on the controversial star of the era drama, Will Smith.
It is the leading role for the actor since the 94th Academy Awards in March, where he won the Oscar for best actor for King Richard and shocked viewers by slapping Chris Rock after he recounted a joke involving his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. In a new interview, Smith clarified that he wants people’s eyes focused on the rest of the film’s creative team.
“My deepest concern is my team,” Smith told Fox 5’s, Kevin McCarthy. “The people on this team have done some of the best work of their careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalize my team.”
Premiere on Dec. 2 with a streaming release scheduled for Dec. 9. Emancipation is the latest film of Antoine Fuqua, the director of hits like Training Day and The Equalizer. The movie talks about the Civil War, and it is based on an enslaved person named Peter, that escaped a brutal existence in the Great South to join the Union Army, according to History.com.
This is Smith’s first time working with Fuqua, and the actor says he thinks the filmmaker outdid himself.
“Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career,” Smith shared while citing the work of cinematographer Robert Richardson and other cast members like Ben Foster and Charmaine Bingwa.
Naturally, the actor is well aware that the Oscar-night slap is still reverberating through the industry and could keep moviegoers from watching Emancipation either in theaters or at home. Asked by McCarthy what he would say to those viewers who are not necessarily ready to see a Will Smith film now, Smith says he would ‘completely understand.’
“I would absolutely respect that, and allow them their space to not be ready,” he says, reiterating his hope that both audiences and Hollywood at large look beyond his presence in the movie to let other peoples’ work shine through. “At this point, that’s what I’m hoping for,” he remarks. “I’m hoping the material, the power of the film, the timeliness of the story — I’m hoping that the good that can be done would open peoples’ hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”