From the red table to the award show stage.
Will Smith took the stage to accept the Beacon Award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards for his role in Emancipation March 1. The moment marked his first award show show since the 2022 Oscars, where he slapped Chris Rock across the face after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. And while picking up the honor, Will reflected on the toll the Apple TV+ film—in which he portrays an enslaved man named Peter in the 1860s—took on him.
"Emancipation was the most individual difficult film of my entire career," the 54-year-old recalled. "It's really difficult to transport a modern mind to that time period. It's difficult to imagine that level of inhumanity."
Although the King Richard star has largely stayed out of the spotlight since the Oscars, he attended the premiere of the film with Jada, 51—whom he wed in 1997—and his three kids: Trey Smith, 30, Jaden Smith, 24 and Willow Smith, 22.
The Smith family stuck together in the wake of the March 2022 incident. While presenting an award at the ceremony, Chris made a joke about Jada—who was in the audience and has spoken about her alopecia—sporting a shaved head. The remark prompted Will to take the stage and slap Chris and shout, "Keep my wife's name out of your f--king mouth."
The Independence Day actor, who picked up the Best Actor Oscar later in the evening, received a 10-year ban from all Academy events. And since the incident, both Jada and Will have reflected on the night.
"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive," Will wrote on Instagram the day after the Oscars. "Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally."
He added, "I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be."
Chris also addressed the slap, saying during his comedy show in Boston, "I'm still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point I'll talk about that s--t. And it will be serious and funny."
As for Jada, she wants to see if Will and Chris can eventually make amends.
"My deepest hope is that these two intelligent capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out, and reconcile," Jada said on an episode of Red Table Talk in June. "With the state of the world today, we all actually need one another more than ever. Until then, Will and I are continuing to do what we have done for the last 28 years, and that's keep figuring out this thing called life together."