Few actors match the cultural stature of Will Smith, rising to popularity in the 1990s thanks to the TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as well as iconic film roles in Bad Boys, Independence Day and Men in Black.
Currently filming Emancipation with director Antoine Fuqua, Smith plays a slave fleeing a plantation in Louisiana. Recently speaking in an interview with GQ, the actor has opened up about his reluctance to take on roles that tackle the history of slavery. Speaking to the magazine, the actor stated that he “didn’t want to show Black people in that light”.
Continuing, he added: “I’ve always avoided making films about slavery…In the early part of my career…I didn’t want to show Black people in that light. I wanted to be a superhero”.
Elaborating on his stance on such roles, Smith commented: “So I wanted to depict Black excellence alongside my white counterparts. I wanted to play roles that you would give to Tom Cruise”.
Will Smith also turned down the titular lead role in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained in 2012, reporting to GQ, that he “didn’t want to make a slavery film about vengeance”.
Whilst he has never taken on a film concerning slavery, he has now joined Emancipation from Antoine Fuqua, the same director behind Training Day, Southpaw and The Guilty. Discussing his brand new role, Smith stated: “This was one that was about love and the power of Black love. And that was something that I could rock with. We were going to make a story about how Black love makes us invincible”.
Along with his upcoming role in Emancipation, Will Smith is also starring in King Richard, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, in which he plays the father of Venus and Serena Williams who coached them to fame in the world of tennis.