Will Smith Explains Why He ‘Avoided Making Films About Slavery’

  • Will Smith said he intentionally “avoided making films about slavery” early in his career.
  • “I didn’t want to show Black people in that light,” the actor told GQ in a new cover story.
  • Smith will star in the new movie “Emancipation,” which is about “the power of Black love,” he said.

Will Smith said that throughout his acting career, he purposely avoided being part of movies about slavery.

“I’ve always avoided making films about slavery,” Smith, 53, said in a new interview for the November cover of GQ. “In the early part of my career … I didn’t want to show Black people in that light.”

The actor added: “I wanted to be a superhero. So I wanted to depict Black excellence alongside my white counterparts. I wanted to play roles that you would give to Tom Cruise.

“And the first time I considered it was ‘Django,’ but I didn’t want to make a slavery film about vengeance.”

Smith opened up in 2015 about turning down the titular role in Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film, “Django Unchained.” The part ultimately went to Jamie Foxx.

“It was about the creative direction of the story,” he said during a roundtable interview for The Hollywood Reporter.  “To me, it’s as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife that has been taken as a slave. That idea is perfect.

“And it was just that Quentin and I couldn’t see [eye to eye]. I wanted to make the greatest love story that African Americans had ever seen.”

Smith added: “I wanted to make that movie so badly, but I felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story. I don’t believe in violence as the reaction to violence.”

Smith rose to prominence as a rapper before his starring role on the hit ’90s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

will smith fresh prince of bel air

Smith on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

NBC


He went on to star in several box-office hits, including the “Bad Boys” films, “Independence Day,” and the “Men in Black” movies. In recent years, he played the DC Comics character Deadshot in “Suicide Squad” and portrayed the genie in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “Aladdin.”

In his upcoming Apple TV+ film, “Emancipation,” Smith will play a runaway slave named Peter. The movie’s premise is based on a real-life story and inspired by a famous image of Peter’s back, which was scarred from being whipped. The photo, published in The Independent in 1863, is referred to as “The Scourged Back.”

Smith told GQ that he was interested in telling this story about slavery because “this was one that was about love and the power of Black love.”

“And that was something that I could rock with,” he added. “We were going to make a story about how Black love makes us invincible.”

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