Award-winning actor Will Smith is stepping out from the dark cloud of his infamous Oscars slap, now claiming his latest project is bringing him closer to God.
During an interview with “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, Smith explained that, in his new film, “Emancipation,” which debuts this weekend in theaters and on Apple+, he portrays a formerly enslaved man named Peter. The man’s historical prominence was solidified when a shocking photo depicting the severe wounds he sustained during violent lashings circulated during the Civil War.
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Known as “Whipped Peter,” the man escaped slavery in Louisiana and joined the Union Army. “Emancipation” chronicles his harrowing life story.
“This film,” Smith said, “centers on faith.”
The 54-year-old actor went on to say Peter seemed to possess “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.”
As the story was recounted to Smith, Peter was once beaten so severely, he entered a coma — at which point he met God. When he regained his consciousness, Smith said, Peter “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,” said Smith.
Noah also addressed the elephant in the room: the slap heard ’round the world.
The shocking act of violence occurred at the Academy Awards earlier this year, when comedian and actor Chris Rock, who was serving as the award show’s emcee, made a seemingly light-hearted joke about Smith’s wife, actor Jada Pinkett Smith, who had shaved her head.
Not knowing about her alopecia diagnosis, Rock made a “G.I. Jane 2” joke about Pinkett Smith. At that point, Smith walked onto the stage, slapped the comedian across the face, and hurled expletives at him.
Smith acknowledged to Noah he “lost it” that night.
“I guess what I would say is that you just never know what somebody’s going through,” he said. “You just don’t know what’s going on with people.”
“I was going through something that night, not that that justifies my behavior at all,” the celebrity added. “We just got to be nice to each other, man. It’s hard. I guess the thing that was most painful for me is that I took my hard and made it hard for other people. I understood the idea when they say, ‘Hurt people hurt people.'”
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