Will Smith took over Wednesday’s Red Table Talk. The actor sat down with his three children — Trey Smith, Jaden Smith and Willow Smith — to talk about the importance of his new film Emancipation.
“This is not a slave movie, this is a freedom movie.”
“We had some calls while you were shooting and I was very concerned,” Willow admitted.
“As the years have gone on, I’ve gotten more and more locked into these characters for longer periods of time. It’s just the weight of this story, the weight of these experiences, the quality of the actors. It was emotionally, it was physically, it was spiritually taxing,” Will declared.
Willow admitted she had reservations about her famous father “making a slave movie.”
Will previously said he passed on Django Unchained as he “couldn’t connect to violence being the answer” in the Tarantino’s story. The role ultimately went to Jamie Foxx.
Emancipation isn’t without its grueling scenes. Will said he was called the n-word “a hundred times a day by very good actors.” The Apple Originals film also stars Ben Foster and Charmaine Bingwa.
In the film, Will plays Peter, the real-life slave who escapes a Louisiana plantation to join the Union Army. The movie is based on the iconic 1863 photo known as “Whipped Peter” that shows the soldier’s scarred back. On RTT, Will recalled an intense moment during pre-production when he got stuck in a neck chain.
Will thought to himself, “I’m Will Smith,” explaining there were “people running around” looking for the keys.
“I’m still scared. Imagine what it was like for Peter to have that stuff on, barefoot and nobody cared,” Will continued, agreeing with Willow who likened the situation to physical and emotional claustrophobia.
Will went on to share that “the only other time in my career” he got “lost and went too far” with a character was shooting the 1993 film Six Degrees of Separation in which he played a con artist.
Will told his kids it’s “critical” for their “generation to see this movie and to understand the foundations of this story and what it means in this country.”