Will Smith is getting back on his feet, months after his infamous Oscars slap.
While the 54-year-old actor has been mostly been staying out of the limelight since he smacked presenter Chris Rock at the ceremony earlier this year, he has a new project in the works that’s already creating buzz.
Smith’s first post-Oscars film, titled “Emancipation,” had a special screening hosted by the NAACP during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 51st Annual Legislative Conference on Oct. 1.
The drama stars Smith as a runway slave named Peter who found asylum in Louisiana and winds up joining the Union Army.
The film earned early praise at the event, with the “King Richard” star making an appearance.
“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down many films that were set in slavery,” Smith noted at the screening, via the Hollywood Reporter. “I never wanted to show us like that. And then this picture came along. And this is not a film about slavery. This is a film about freedom. This is a film about resilience. This is a film about faith.”
“This is a film about the heart of a man — what could be called the first viral image,” the father of three added.
An 1863 photo of the enslaved man with scars on his back from being heavily whipped “became one of the most widely circulated images of slavery of its time,” History.com reported. Called “The Scourged Back” or “Whipped Peter,” was used in campaigns by abolitionists in efforts to end slavery.
“Cameras had just been created, and the image of ‘Whipped Peter’ went around the world,” Smith noted. “It was a rallying cry against slavery, and this was a story that exploded and blossomed in my heart that I wanted to be able to deliver to you in a way that only Antoine Fuqua could deliver.”
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson praised the film in a tweet after the event.
“I had the pleasure of watching the film #Emancipation and can’t begin to tell how powerful this is for OUR community and OUR history,” Johnson said. “It’s a story of adversity, of resilience, of love, and of triumph. Thank you Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith for sharing your gifts! #ThisIsPower.”
While the Apple TV project has no release date as of yet, it is expected to premiere in 2023.