Will Smith says ‘Emancipation’ co-star improvised spitting scene

Smith says he didn't know anything about what was about to happen on set

Will Smith says that a certain scene in his new film Emancipation, where he’s spat on by a co-star, was completely improvised.

Emancipation charters the journey of a runaway slave, Peter (played by Smith) from a plantation in the 19th-century. As viewers might expect, the film has a number of charged scenes and themes in it. Smith recently found himself talking about one particular moment in the film when his character is assaulted by Sergeant Howard (Steve Ogg).

Sitting down on Red Table Takeover with his kids Trey, Jaden, and Willow, the star said the scene had taken him by surprise – as it wasn’t supposed to be as visceral as it turned out. He told his kids: “One of the first days on set, there is a scene with one of the actors and he leans down in my face and says, ‘You a cold one, ain’t you?’ and then he ad-libbed…”


Will Smith in Antoine Fuqua’s ‘Emancipation’. CREDIT: Apple

In the clip (embedded below), Smith mimes a spitting action towards Willow, before he feigns an over-the-top disgusted reaction. After making his three kids howl with laughter, the Bad Boys For Life actor continues: “I was like, ‘Makeup!’ No, but it was like… Whoa, every actor on this set was taking it really, really seriously.”

Speaking about the overall experience of making the film, Smith said it hadn’t been easy to take on such a “taxing” film. The Oscar-winner explained how he’d become “locked into” his character Peter on an emotional level.

“As the years have gone on I’ve gotten more and more locked into these characters for longer periods of time,” he told his kids. “And it’s just the weight of this story, the weight of these experiences – the quality of these actors. It was emotionally, it was physically, it was spiritually taxing.”

Emancipation focuses on Smith‘s character as it charts his harrowing yet action-packed life during the first true century of the United States. Peter is a runaway slave, who forges through the swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey to escape plantation owners that nearly killed him. The film is helmed by Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua.


Emancipation is now streaming on Apple TV+.


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