Will Smith’s Emancipation Co-Star Recalls Her Initial Reaction To The Oscars Slap

Charmaine Bingwa in Emancipation
(Image credit: Apple)

Will Smith has been quite busy as of late, as the A-lister has been promoting his latest movie, Emancipation. The historical drama has received relatively positive buzz so far, thanks in part to the early reactions to Smith’s movie and a star-studded screening featuring Dave Chappelle and more. Despite all of this, however, it’s hard to deny that Smith’s infamous Oscars slap does cast a shadow over the release. Smith has fielded a number of questions about his televised confrontation with Chris Rock during the press tour for the movie. And now co-star Charmaine Bingwa is opening up about the slap and revealing how she initially reacted.

In Emancipation, Charmaine Bingwa plays the role of Dodienne – the wife to Will Smith’s Peter. Given the relationship between their characters, Bingwa and Smith got to work together closely. The Black Box alum was recently asked what was running through her mind when the slap eventually happened and, in response, she explained where she was and revealed whether it affected her perception of her co-star:

The film's in the can at this point. I was working on The Good Fight, so I had an early start, like 5 a.m. or something, so I didn't watch the show. But when I woke up, there were a lot of messages on my telephone. I didn't watch the clip until later. My feeling is I got to know Will and he did nothing but display kindness, generosity, and his great artistic talent with me, so I knew that wasn't Will's nature. I knew that wasn't the core of who Will was, and I think it was probably more painful for him to go through.

The movie was shot in 2021, so production had long ended by the time the heavily-debated Oscars moment took place. The reactions to Will Smith’s actions varied, with some stars like Jim Carrey chastising him for hitting Chris Rock. Others like Fresh Prince alum Tatyana Ali showed love to Smith, though. So it would seem that Charmaine Bingwa fell into the latter camp, as she opted to give her co-star the benefit of the doubt in the matter. Of course, unlike many of her peers in Hollywood, she had to consider something else at the time: her upcoming movie.

During her interview with EW, the Australian actress also addressed whether she thought the slap would affect the film’s release and/or her own career. It’s honestly a genuine factor to consider but, based on the star’s subsequent comments, she didn’t have concerns on that front:

But I knew how special our film was, and how since Day 1, Apple just believed in this film. I knew Will was on his own journey with how he was going to reckon with himself and return to public life. But it's just such a powerful film. I didn't despair, I just knew that the message would transcend any other noise around it.

Previous interviews with other members of Emancipation’s creative team suggest that the film was never in danger of not being released. Director Antoine Fuqua said that Apple didn’t approach him about such a notion. Still, he and Will Smith himself are conscious of the fact that there are many who feel that the movie is being released too soon after the slap. Smith responded to those critics, saying that he hopes that “the importance of the story and the importance of Peter rise above those feelings and emotions.” He also doesn’t want his collaborators to be “penalized for a few horrific moments of indiscretion on my part.” One would also think that the actor takes comfort in knowing that those colleagues, like Charmaine Bingwa, have his back post-Oscars slap.

Emancipation, one of the biggest new movie releases of the year, is now available to stream 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.