Will Smith says he decided not to be a part of the film “Django Unchained” after seeing the looks on his children’s faces after they had a family meeting about the role.
Therefore it makes sense that he would take over his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s series “Red Table Talk” with his three children to dissect his role in another film that has slavery at its center, “Emancipation.”
Smith was joined by Trey, Jaden and Willow Smith to talk about playing Peter, a character based on the true story of an enslaved man whose image with a severely scared back has become iconic.
Smith shared that while “Emancipation” is more about freedom than it is slavery, he still felt the weight of portraying Peter and felt like he “lost himself.”
“It creates generational trauma even on a cellular level,” Smith said of slavery before adding that “as brutal as it is there’s also the other side of how resilient and powerful that Blacks in America” were to survive it.
Smith got emotional talking about his character in the film, recounting a scene in which Peter pauses to praise God in the midst of a harrowing journey through a swamp.
“It was one of the things that I wanted to be able to share with you all, the ideas that I learned from Peter,” Smith told his children. “The concept is that nobody gets out of this life without having to bear their cross. You may not have to bear it to the level that Peter had to bear it, or to the level that Jesus had to bear it, but the only way to be here joyfully is to be grateful for the cross you’ve been given to bear.”
“You have to know that suffering leads to salvation,” he added.
Smith talked about some of the “brutal” and “dehumanizing” moments of portraying the character and how the role affected him.
Ben Foster plays Jim Fassel, who hunted Peter in the swamp, and praised Smith’s performance in a video sent for the “Red Table Talk” episode.
“This is a performance that speaks to the human spirit against all odds to fight for love, the fight of faith, the fight to endure and endure for love,” Foster said.”I’m blown away by what Will Smith did in this film.”