On the latest episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Will Smith discusses his life post-slap at the Oscars and promotes his new film Emancipation.
During the interview, Noah immediately turned his attention to Smith’s new leading role as Whipped Peter in the slavery film, Emancipation.
“Emancipation is not the kind of film we would expect to see you in as Will Smith,” said 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 Smith. “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.'”
According to Smith and director Antoine Fuqua, embodying characters like Peter come with specific hazards. Fuqua said Smith is “the nicest man in the world,” adding that “the movie was supposed to end in October, but we didn’t finish that movie until January,” but “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.” He told Noah, “This character, what he had to endure and what he had to survive, only God could make that possible.”
Eventually, Noah brought up the incident at the Oscars, adding that it had been a while since the general public had seen Him. “I’ve been away. What y’all been doing?” Smith responded jokingly.
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine,” Will says at the 10:24 mark. ” 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 someone in the audience could also be dealing with, “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 stated. “You just don’t know what’s going on with people.”
He continued: “I was going through something that night. Not that that justifies my behavior at all,” he said. “It’s hard. I guess the thing that was most painful for me is I took my heart and made it hard for other people. I understood the idea when they say hurt people hurt people.” Noah said he empathized with Smith, but at the Oscars, he” stood up for the wrong thing at the wrong time.”
“It was a lot of things,” said Smith. “It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, you know? All of that just bubbled up in that moment. That is not who I want to be.” Smith said with tears in his eyes. Noah said, “That’s not who you are.”
However, Noah made it clear that he wasn’t delighted with how Smith behaved that evening at the Oscars.
“I love Chris. I’m friends with him. I love you, but I was like, ‘This is fucked up,” said Noah.
“I was gone, dude,” said Smith. “That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time. My nephew is nine. He is the sweetest little boy. We came home. He had stayed up late to see his uncle Will, and we are sitting in my kitchen, and he is on my lap, and he is holding the Oscar, and he is just like, ‘Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?’ Damn it. Why are you trying to Oprah me?”
Smith hopes that people would not avoid Emancipation because of his impulsive actions.
“The one thing that’s killing me is Emancipations is Antoine’s masterpiece,” he said. “These top artists in the world have done some of the best work of their career. And the idea that they might be denied because of me is like, ‘Oh!'” Will explained, “That is killing me dead. I hope that their work will be honored and not be tainted based by a horrific decision on my part.”