Will Smith premieres 'Emancipation' -- first film since Oscars incident

"Emancipation" is based on the true story of a runaway slave named Peter.

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Will Smith premieres first film since Oscars incident
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Alicia Vitarelli had a chance to chat with Will Smith, who says he hopes you will give "Emancipation" a chance.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- West Philadelphia's Will Smith is already getting Oscar buzz for his role both on screen and off in his upcoming film "Emancipation."

But following the incident at this year's Oscars ceremony, where he slapped presenter Chris Rock, Smith's been banned from attending any Academy events for 10 years for "unacceptable and harmful behavior."

Action News had a chance to chat with Smith, who said he hopes moviegoers will give the film a chance for the sake of everyone who worked on it.

Smith said that he understands if fans aren't showing up for him, and he respects that.

We recorded the interview back on Nov. 5. However, due to a studio embargo on airing the interview with Smith, we could not show it to viewers until Monday, Nov. 28.

When I chatted with Smith a few weeks ago, he had just premiered the film at the Philadelphia Film Center to a private crowd of friends and family.

No media was invited. It was simply an intimate moment, reflecting on the space he is in.

SEE ALSO: West Philly's Will Smith surprises students at Overbrook High School

There's something about being home; Smith said, it's "good for the soul."

Handing this film to the home crowd, he said, was "spectacular."

"I was very surprised because the movie is heavy," Smith said. "I was very surprised at the amount of cheers and applause and the energy that the hometown audience brought to the film," Smith said.

"Emancipation" is based on the true story of a runaway slave named Peter.

Smith told me this role has been life-changing and transformative for him.

He said he's spent a lot of time with his faith, and in that process, he's done a lot of soul-searching.

While he was home, he visited students at his alma mater, Overbook High School. He called it cathartic.

"You know, we've been talking about the idea of history and the importance of history, and for me to walk through those halls again," he said. "It was great to be back there. Great to be back home."

He said he talked to the kids about money, relationships, and something he's been embodying both on and off screen, emancipation.

"We talked about the concept of emancipation and it not being a physical concept, but being a concept of mind," Smith said. "Emancipation can be in your mind and in your spirit."

"Emancipation" hits theaters Friday and streams on Apple TV+ on December 9.