Will smith is back. In his first late-night interview since his infamous Oscars slap, Smith appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to promote his upcoming film Emancipation and discuss how he’s spent his year post-slap.
Noah immediately turned his attention to Smith’s starring role in Emancipationa slavery epic from director Antoine Fuqua about Whipped Peter—an escaped slave whose heavily scarred back was photographed and became one of the most graphic depictions of slavery, helping to galvanize abolitionists to end the institution once and for all. “Emancipation is not the kind of film we would expect to see you in as Will Smith,” said host Trevor Noah🇧🇷 “So, why this project?”
“American slavery was one of the most brutal aspects of human history… It is hard to understand the level of human cruelty,” said an emotional Smith, who had already begun dabbing tears out of his eyes before he responded. “My daughter asked me , ‘Daddy, do we really need another slave movie?’ I said, ‘Baby, I promise you, I wouldn’t make a slave movie. This is a freedom movie.’”
In an exclusive interview with vanity fair🇧🇷 Smith and Fuqua spoke about the hazards of embodying a character like Peter. Fuqua called Smith “the nicest man in the world,” and revealed that “the movie was supposed to end in October, but we didn’t finish that movie until January,” noting that “it’s really hard to release a character who’s been brutalized and called the N-word every day.” Smith revealed that getting into character as Peter “was grueling; physically, emotionally and mentally in every way,” and echoed that feeling on The Daily Show🇧🇷 “This character, what he had to endure and what he had to survive, only God could make that possible,” he told Noah.
Noah eventually pivoted to Smith’s incident at the Oscars, noting that it’s been a long time since the public has seen Smith. “I’ve been away. What y’all been doing?” Smith quipped in response, prompting laughter, before sharing with Noah how he’s been since slapping Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars.
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine. There’s many nuances and complexities to it. But at the end of the day, I just—I lost it, you know?” Smith said. “I was going through something that night, you know? You just never know what someone else is going through.” Smith then turned to the audience and gave hypothetical examples of what people in the daily show audience might be dealing with underneath the surface. “Somebody’s mother died last week. Somebody’s child is sick. Somebody just lost their job. Somebody just found out their spouse cheated on them,” he postulated. “You just don’t know what’s going on with people.”