Will Smith says he ‘understands’ if viewers aren’t ‘ready’ to watch new film after Oscars slap

 (Getty Images / Apple TV+)
(Getty Images / Apple TV+)

Will Smith has shared a message for those who might not want to see his new film because of his behaviour at the Oscars.

Emancipation, a new drama from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, is the first new Smith film to be released after the actor struck Chris Rock around the face on stage at the awards ceremony in March 2022.

He hit Rock after the comedian made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

Since the incident, Smith, who was condemned for his actions, has apologised twice and resigned as a member of the Academy.

During the promotional trail for Emancipation, Smith was asked by journalist KevinMcCarthy what he would say to someone who does not feel “ready” to see him lead a film following the slap.

“I completely understand – if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” he said. “My deepest concern is my team – Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career.”

He continued: “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 penalise my team.

“At this point, that’s what I’m working for. 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 recognise and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”

Will Smith in ‘Emancipation' (Apple TV+)
Will Smith in ‘Emancipation' (Apple TV+)

Shortly after he slapped Rock, the actor won his first ever Best Actor Oscar for King Richard, and delivered a tearful speech.

The actor is in contention for another nomination following his role in Emancipation – however, should he receive a nod, he will be unable to attend the ceremony.

In the film, Smith plays Peter, a slave who flees a plantation in Louisiana.

Emancipation will be released on AppleTV+ on 9 December.