Emancipation Producer Apologizes For Bringing Whipped Peter Photo To The Premiere

Will Smith shirtless in Emancipation
(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Over the past few years, Will Smith has been the subject of countless headlines. While mostly it’s been related to him infamously slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards, his return as a leading actor is coming in the form of Antoine Fuqua’s Emancipation. And producer Joey McFarland has apologized for bringing a photo of Whipped Peter to the movie’s premiere.

Emancipation is based on the true story of Gordon aka Whipped Peter, an escaped slave turned soldier whose story is still taught in history books. Photos of his back, covered in scars from brutally being whipped, helped to show the horrors of slavery during the abolitionist movement. Producer Joey McFarland recently got himself in hot water for bringing one of those images with him to the movie’s premiere, leading him to issue an apology on his personal Instagram account. Check out said apology below:

There you have it. It looks like Joey McFarland is taking responsibility and apologizing to anyone who might have been offended when he pulled out his Whipped Peter still while on the red carpet of Emancipation. Namely because the Wolf of Wall Street producer had one of the actual historical photographs, rather than simply a reprint. And McFarland has seemingly committed to making sure it ended up in a proper historical home long-term.

Joey McFarland’s Instagram apology came as a video of him with one of the original photos on the red carpet of Emancipation went viral. A ton of backlash arrived online as a result of him bringing out one of the original historical photos, which date back to 1863. Criticism came both because he was using an original photo, and because folks took umbrage with McFarland seemingly using evidence of racial violence as a collector’s item. But it seems he understands the errors of his way, although this will mark yet another controversy surrounding the upcoming release of Emancipation

As a reminder, you can check out the original viral video of Joey McFarland at the Emancipation premiere below. He was being interviewed by Variety on the red carpet, which when the historical, violent image was surprisingly shown off. And a new controversy surrounding the historical epic drama was born. As you can see:

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In this clip, Joey McFarland talks about the collection of historical images that he’s seemingly been accruing over the years. While he says he was going to donate them at the end of his life, folks online took umbrage with the idea of “collecting” such violent, important historical images. And that chatter got so loud that McFarland eventually issued his own apology. You can re-watch Emancipation’s full trailer below:

Joey McFarland’s name is still trending online, which shows just how many people took umbrage with the Emancipation producer’s actions. While director Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith himself have both expressed hope that the movie’s contents will overpower the noise surrounding its lead actor and The Slap, now there’s another controversy surrounding the long-awaited movie. It should be interesting to see how these issues affect the film’s critical and box office performance; Smith has been screening it for celebs for a month or so now. They say any publicity is good publicity, although the emotions associated with Emancipation are strong.

Emancipation is in select theaters now, and will arrive on Apple TV+ on December 9th. In the meantime, check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. We’ll just have to wait and see if other projects by Will Smith that were put on hold actually see the light of day. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.