Will Smith Shares Response After Landing First Awards Win Following Oscars Slap Brouhaha

In just about a month, we’ll mark the one-year anniversary of the 94th Academy Awards, where Will Smith infamously slapped Chris Rock on stage before yelling expletives at him. The unexpected development garnered a massive wave of attention, with many criticizing Smith’s actions. However, the Oscar winner has also received support from a number of people and organizations. On that note, just this weekend, Smith added another professional accolade to his already lengthy list. The actor won his first major awards win since the slap controversy and, afterwards, he took to social media to respond.

Will Smith won Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards for his performance in the historical drama Emancipation. The competition in the category was fierce, as Smith found himself up against Nope’s Daniel Kaluuya, Devotion’s Jonathan Majors, A Jazzman’s Blues’ Joshua Boone and Sterling K. Brown of Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. Smith wasn’t actually at the ceremony, which was held on Saturday night. So he addressed his win via an Instagram post, in which he thanked his collaborators and the NAACP:

WOW!! NAACP!! I am absolutely humbled by this!! I want to share this with my entire #Emancipation family - @antoinefuqua, @charmainebingwa, Ben, Bob, Jon the whole team at @westbrook and @appletvplus… I am so proud of the work we put into this film. I would like to thank the NAACP for honoring our film! @derricknaacp - you and your entire organization - and the work you do all year round - is truly important, so to be recognized by y’all - it means a lot.

He also took a moment to shout out Queen Latifah, who served as the host of this year’s show. You can take a look at the A-lister’s post in its entirety below:

It goes without saying that this is a major moment for Will Smith, considering what transpired nearly a year ago. The slap definitely still weighs on people’s minds, but it would seem it hasn’t deterred at least one group from giving Smith his props. It’s unclear as to why he missed out on the festivities, but there’s a fair chance that he wasn’t able to attend due to the fact that Bad Boys 4 is now officially in production

Emancipation, which was directed by Antoine Fuqua, was something of a passion project for the leading man. The drama centers on Peter, a runaway slave who must evade slave catchers and other obstacles as he journeys to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The King Richard alum has been candid about how “deeply dehumanizing” the filming experience was, pointing out how difficult it was to be called the n-word multiple times a day among other things. While doing press, the star was also candid about how he initially avoided doing slavery movies and explained that Fuqua’s film didn’t fall into certain tropes. 

When it was released near the end of 2022, the film received somewhat mixed reviews, though a number of critics did sing its praises. Will Smith’s work was also lauded, even amid the continued discussions over the slap. Though people still talk about it, some appear to have forgiven the 54-year-old actor for what transpired. Smith himself has gotten to a place where he can poke fun at himself for the slap and did so recently when he got in on a TikTok trend.

Will Smith’s NAACP Image Award win could bode well for him moving forward, as it might  indicate that certain committees will continue to give him serious consideration for honors post-slap. (The Oscars likely won’t, given the Academy banned Smith for a decade.) All in all, Smith seems to have found a sense of normalcy after his tumultuous 2022, and this latest award provides him with some positive momentum at the top of 2023.

Those who would like to watch the actor’s award-winning performance in Emancipation can stream the movie using an Apple TV+ subscription.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.