A lot has happened since we last saw Will Smith in 2021’s award-winning biographical drama King Richard. The “Fresh Prince” made news for multiple reasons at the 2022 Academy Awards, the first being the now infamous Chris Rock slap, which was followed up by an Oscar win and emotional acceptance speech. Months later, Smith is appearing in Emancipation, director Antoine Fuqua’s historical action drama about a man escaping the American South at the height of the Civil War.
But, the star of films like The Pursuit of Happyness, Empire of the State, and Suicide Squad isn’t alone in the Emancipation cast, as he shares the screen with talented actors like Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Mustafa Shakir, and others in one of the most anticipated movies on the 2022 movie schedule. Let’s break down the rest of the stars of the new Apple TV+ original movie.
Will Smith (Peter)
Leading the Emancipation cast is Will Smith, who takes on the role of Peter, an enslaved man who escapes from Louisiana in hopes of becoming a free man and reuniting with his family, all while the Civil War is being fought. The movie and Smith's character are based on the story of Gordon, a.k.a. “Whipped Peter,” whose scarred back was featured in an early photograph in the late 19th Century.
Smith is no stranger when it comes to empowering and inspiring dramas, as the Academy Award and Emmy winner has movies like The Pursuit of Happyness, Ali, and Concussion which all appear on the list of his best performances. This is on top of his blockbusters like Independence Day, the Bad Boys movies, and the Men In Black franchise.
Ben Foster (Jim Fassel)
Ben Foster appears in the Emancipation cast as Jim Fassel, a determined and ruthless Confederate tracker with a reputation of stopping at nothing to track slaves who have escaped into the marshy wilderness of southern Louisiana.
Foster, who has played villainous roles in movies like 3:10 to Yuma and The Program throughout his career, has also given commanding performances in everything from Taylor Sheridan’s Hell or High Water to Galveston, which was based on a novel by True Detective creator Nick Pizzolatto. Foster also portrayed Angel in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand earlier in his career.
Charmaine Bingwa (Dodienne)
Next up for the Emancipation cast is Charmaine Bingwa, who takes on the role of Will Smith’s on-screen wife, Dodienne, the woman he is so desperately trying to find while escaping captivity.
Although she doesn’t have as many memorable roles as Smith or Foster, Bingwa has been putting together an impressive resume the past few years, with appearances on shows like The Good Fight and a list of movies that includes Black Box, Trees of Peace, and Kapo, as well as multiple short films and smaller TV programs.
Mustafa Shakir shows up in Emancipation as a character named Andrew Cailloux, one of the Union soldiers Peter crosses paths with on his journey to freedom.
All those Cowboy Bebop fans who were shocked and saddened by the Netflix show’s quick cancellation will certainly recognize Shakir from his portrayal of Jet Black. Speaking of former Netflix shows, Shakir also appeared on Luke Cage, on which he portrayed the character known as John “Bushmaster” McIver. Over on the film side, Shakir has appeared in movies like Double Play, Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Hide and Seek.
Gilbert Owuor (Gordon)
Gilbert Owuor shows up in Emancipation as Gordon, one of the fellow slaves on the run with Will Smith’s Peter.
Prior to landing a role in Antoine Fuqua’s Apple TV+ exclusive historical drama, Owuor took on small roles on shows like The Newsroom, True Blood, Castle, and Goliath, as well as appearances in a list of movies that includes Montana Story, No Man of God, and Mute, to name a few.
Michael Luwoye (John)
Michael Luwoye appears in the Emancipation cast as John, one of the other slaves who escapes into the Louisiana wilderness alongside Will Smith’s character in the new drama film.
Before sharing the screen with Smith in Emancipation, Luwoye made a name for himself on the stage with appearances in regional and off-Broadway productions of Guys and Dolls, Tick, Tick… Boom!, Invisible Thread, and Cardboard Piano, before landing the titular role in the Hamilton national tour and later Broadway run from 2018 to 2019. He has also appeared on TV shows such as The Gilded Age and Prodigal Son.
Ronnie Gene Blevins (Harrington)
Veteran character actor Ronnie Gene Blevins appears in Emancipation as a Confederate soldier by the name of Harrington.
Probably one of the most prolific names in the Emancipation cast, Blevins has landed small roles on several dozen TV shows throughout his career, including Sons of Anarchy, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, True Detective, Animal Kingdom, and most recently, Tulsa King. His film appearances include Seven Psychopaths, Joe, The Wave, and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
Grant Harvey (Leeds)
Taking on the role of another Confederate soldier by the name of Leeds in Emancipation is Grant Harvey, who has been on some big-time shows the past few years.
Everyone who watched the incredibly popular 2022 Netflix series Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story saw Harvey appear briefly as Officer Mueller, one of the cops that entered the killer's apartment. His other TV credits include Big Sky, Station 19, NCIS, 9-1-1: Lone Star, and All Rise, to name a few.
Aaron Moten (Knowls)
Aaron Moten appears in the Emancipation cast as Knowls, Fassel’s sidekick and fellow slave tracker.
Earlier in 2022, Moten appeared alongside Mark Walhberg in the faith-based, Father Stu, which came after several years of appearing on various TV and streaming series. This includes the Netflix original comedy show Disjointed, the Amazon dramedy series Mozart in the Jungle, and NCIS.
Steven Ogg (Howard)
And then there is Steven Ogg, who takes on the role of a Confederate sergeant named Howard in Emancipation.
Probably best remembered for legendary portrayal of the homicidal yet fan-favorite character Trevor Philips in Grand Theft Auto V, Ogg has gone on to appear on TV shows like The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, Westworld, and Snowpiercer, as well as movies like The Escort, The Short History of the Long Road, and most recently the Shudder exclusive horror anthology film, V/H/S/99.
Emancipation is currently streaming for anyone with an Apple TV+ subscription.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.