Actor Will Smith (54) can not only look forward to an important award, it is also the first award since the Oscar slap scandal at the beginning of last year. He was honored for Best Actor at the NAACP Image Awards Saturday night for his role in "Emancipation." Smith was not present at the awards ceremony to accept his award in person.
Set in 19th-century Louisiana, the film follows an escaped slave who embarks on a perilous journey to Baton Rouge while fighting back violent plantation owners. "Emancipation" was inspired by an 1863 photograph known as "Whipped Peter," showing a former slave with severe lacerations on his back. The spread of the image exposed the brutality of slavery to the American public.
After the release of "Emancipation" was initially delayed following Smith's incident at the Oscars, Apple TV decided to promote the historical drama as an awards contender and release the film in October. Smith, who also served as a producer on the film, will accept a Beacon Award from the African-American Film Critics Association on March 1 along with director Antoine Fuqua for their work on the film. The film was also nominated in two categories at the Black Reel Awards.
Smith's award at the NAACP Image Awards comes almost a year after the controversial 2022 Academy Awards, where the actor slapped comedian Chris Rock, 58, after a joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith, 52. Moments later, Smith won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in King Richard. As a result of the physical altercation, Smith was banned from all Academy-sponsored events for the next ten years.