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Will Smith Returns to Awards Stage for the First Time Since the 2022 Oscars



Will Smith returned to the awards season circuit on Wednesday to accept the Beacon Award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards. The speech marked the Oscar winner’s first in-person acceptance speech at an awards show since he slapped Chris Rock onstage at the 2022 Academy Awards.

He accepted the award alongside his Emancipation director Antione Fuqua, who began the acceptance speech by explaining the significance of the award. “The Beacon Award is intended to highlight films that are tackling challenging subjects with insight, enlightening, as well as engaging the audience,” he said. “It was our hope that Emancipation, that it would be able to bring Peter’s triumphant story and unwavering faith and his deep love for his family to life.” The director went on to thank Apple, AAFCA and the film’s cast and crew before handing over the mic to Smith.

The actor began his part of the speech by recounting his experience filming entirely outdoors and being spontaneously spat on by a white co-star while filming a tense scene, and how that impacted his understanding of the injustice of the slavery era. In the Apple TV+ movie, he plays Peter, an enslaved man who manifests his own freedom.

Prior to taking the stage, Smith was flocked by cameras marking his first public appearance this awards season. He was noticeably absent at the NAACP Image Awards, where he won the best actor award for his portrayal of Peter. He later posted a thank you on his Instagram, in which he shouted out the organization for “the work you do all year round” and shared how much it meant to him to be recognized by it in that way.

In November, the film premiered in Westwood and was momentarily caught in the crossfire of controversy, when a producer posed with the original ‘Scourged Back’ photograph which inspired the screenplay.

More to come…

Christy Piña contributed to this story.

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