Will Smith Breaks Silence on Oscars Slap Overshadowing New Film Emancipation

Will Smith has embarked on his press tour for AppleTV+'s Emancipation, and he's already facing questions regarding his now-infamous slapping of Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards earlier this year. According to the Oscar-winning actor, he fully understands if someone choose to skip the film due to his actions at the Oscars.

"I completely understand that. If someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready," Smith told FOX 5's Kevin McCarthy. "My deepest concern is my team. [Director Antoine Fuqua] I think has done what I think is his greatest work of his entire career."

The actor then went on to praise the rest of the crew, saying he hopes his actions don't take away from the work everyone's completed on the films.

"My deepest hope is that my actions don't penalize my team. At this point, that's what I'm working for, that's what I'm hoping for," he added. "I'm hoping that the material, the power of the film, the timeliness of the story, I'm hoping that the good that can be done would open people's hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film."

Weeks after Smith slapped Rock at the annual awards gala, the Academy barred him from any Academy-sanctioned events for the next 10 years. Shortly after his suspension was announced, the actor officially apologized to the comedian and his family.

"I want to apologize to Chris's mother. I saw an interview that Chris's mother did, and that was one of the things about that moment," Smith said in July. "I didn't realize and I wasn't thinking [about] how many people got hurt in that moment. I want to apologize to Chris's mother, I want to apologize to Chris's family, specifically Tony Rock. We had a great relationship. Tony Rock was my man, and this is probably irreparable."

"I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment," Smith's apology said. "And I'm not going to try to unpack all of that right now, but I can say to all of you [that] there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment. There's no part of me that thinks that's the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults."

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Emancipation is due out December 9th on AppleTV+.