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Will Smith Says New Movie EMANCIPATION ‘Centers On Faith’

Poster courtesy of MMPA

Will Smith Says New Movie EMANCIPATION ‘Centers On Faith’

By Movieguide® Contributor

Actor Will Smith recently promoted his latest movie EMANCIPATION, which tells the true story of a former slave named Peter who became famous after a photo was taken of the scars on his back from being whipped during the American Civil War. 

Smith, who plays the role of Peter in the movie, said the role drew him closer to God.

Peter escaped from the Louisiana plantation where he was enslaved and joined the Union Army. The famous photograph of the scars on his back was published in 1863, and Peter was soon nicknamed “Whipped Peter.”

“This film centers on faith,” Smith explained, saying Peter had “the power of faith to be able to endure anything.” 

He continued, “This character … what he had to endure and what he had to survive, only God could make a man, when you look at those marks on his back, only God could make that possible.”

The actor also shared a story about a time when Peter was whipped so severely, he went into a coma. While he was in the coma, Peter said he met God, and when he woke up, he “believed in a way that he had never believed before.”

“The difference between faith and revelation … he walked in the world with a knowledge of the divine, a  knowledge of God that is just something that I’ve just desperately wanted to understand and explore,” Smith shared.

Smith then spoke about his fears that his behavior at last year’s Oscar ceremony will affect the movie’s box office performance. 

“The one thing that’s killing me is that EMANCIPATION is [director] Antoine [Fuqua]’s masterpiece,” Smith said. “He has created an absolute masterpiece. Bob Richardson [the director of photography], [actor] Ben Foster, and just all the way down, 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, that is killing me dead.” 

Movieguide® has not reviewed EMANCIPATION yet and cannot advise on its content. 

Movieguide® previously reported on Smith’s faith:

Actor Will Smith is currently promoting his upcoming movie KING RICHARD, where he stars as tennis pros Venus and Serena Williams’ father and coach. In addition to talking about the film, Smith also discussed the role faith has played in his own life.

The movie follows the family as the Williams sisters rise to fame in the professional tennis world, showing the hardships they faced and the courage they showed in their pursuit of greatness.

In an interview with Movieguide® Award winner DeVon Franklin, the star was asked if he, like his character Richard Dove Williams Jr., was a man of faith.

“You can’t get where I get if you don’t love the Lord,” Smith responded. “You don’t get to sit how I sit, move how I move if you don’t love the Lord. You’d be seeing a whole lot of other repercussions.”

He also touched on how his own faith helped him with this role.

“You have to have faith. That’s what Mrs. Oracene [had],” Smith said, mentioning Oracene Price, mother and coach to the Williams sisters. “She’s so solid that she is completely, thoroughly and totally certain. She doesn’t walk in doubt.”

“She said, ‘In order to doubt, that means you don’t trust God,’” he continued. “She said, ‘There was never a moment of doubt. When we set out as a family, we knew we were going to do what was ordained.’ It was this family around this belief, and they trusted God. And they believed that their devotion would be rewarded and they never wavered.”

Smith’s own faith was instilled in him by his grandmother, who attended Resurrection Baptist Church and made sure that her grandchildren participated in church events.

“My grandmother was really my connection to God,” the actor said in an interview with The Christian Post. “She was the most spiritually certain person that I had ever met in my entire life. Even to the point that when she was dying, she was happy, like she was really excited about going to heaven.”

Smith’s faith helped him connect with this role in a deep way, giving dimension to a performance that is already garnering Oscar buzz.