Will Smith is being very specific about how he promotes his new film Emancipation, but one place where we knew he would appear is Red Table Talk. The Facebook Watch talk show hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris frequently features other members of the Smith family, so it’s no surprise to see Will pop in to talk about his new film. And with everyone buzzing about his performance as escaped slave Peter, the Oscar winner had a frank discussion with his children Trey, Jaden and Willow about the emotions he had to tap into to play the role. In an exclusive clip from the newest episode, the King Richard star revealed that it was the first time he’d gone so far into a character.
“So what happens is you play these characters and when you play them long enough, it’s like moving to another country and speaking in another language. If you speak the other language long enough you’ll start to lose your native tongue,” Will says. “And you can see when actors get out on that edge, right when you touch that edge of no self and it’s terrifying. It’s terrifying out there. Peter is as far as I’ve ever been with a character. I got out there to that terrifying, blissful edge.”
Emancipation’s release has once again sparked the debate over Hollywood’s continued use of Black trauma in historical projects. Is slavery an important part of our history? Yes, of course. However, it is not the only part of our story. We also don’t need endless scenes of Black bodies being beaten, tortured and murdered. In response to the issue, director Antoine Fuqua told Vanity Fair that hoped to spark a conversation.
“The only thing I can do is try to tell stories that I think could be inspiring in some way but remind us of our history,” Fuqua said. “Because there is a responsibility: We are citizens of the United States of America and that’s the same country that kidnapped us and forced labor and brutalized us with violence for greed. So, I don’t think we can forget that. I don’t think we go about it with bitterness. We should go about it with an open heart; we should go about it hoping to have conversations about it and try to start some sort of healing about it.”
Will Smith’s Red Table Talk takeover premieres Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT on Facebook Watch.
Emancipation is currently streaming on AppleTV+.