Actor Will Smith said he understands why people might not want to see his upcoming movie.
Smith won the Best Actor Oscar earlier this year for his role in “King Richard,” but garnered more attention that night for slapping comedian Chris Rock, who made a joke onstage about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
As a result, he was banned from attending the Oscars for the next decade ― even though it’s possible he could be nominated and even win an award.
“Emancipation,” Smith’s first film since the slap, opens in theaters Dec. 2 before streaming on Apple TV a week later.
The film is loosely based on the life of an enslaved man named Gordon, whose scarred back was photographed in 1863 and was famously used by abolitionists to show the public just how brutal slavery was.
“Emancipation” is getting some Oscar buzz, but Smith said he understands if filmgoers have second thoughts about watching it considering his behavior at the last ceremony.
“I completely understand that if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” Smith told film critic Kevin McCarthy in an interview clip posted on social media.
Smith said that he hopes the reaction to the slap doesn’t affect the film’s chances of success or the award opportunities for the other people who worked on the film.
“My deepest concern is my team — [director Antoine Fuqua] has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career,” Smith said.
“I’m hoping that the material, the power of the film, the timeliness of the story — I’m hoping that the good that can be done — will open people’s hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film,” he said.
You can watch the full clip below.