Will Smith had a special forcefield around him at the premiere of Emancipation: his family.
The actor, making his first red carpet since his Oscars meltdown, was surrounded by family at Regency Village Theatre in L.A. on Wednesday. Jada Pinkett Smith was on his arm while all three of his children — Trey, 30, Jaden, 24, and Willow, 22 — were by his side.
Will stars in Emancipation, directed by Antoine Fuqua, about an enslaved man who escaped a Confederate army labor camp. The Apple Originals film also stars Ben Foster and Charmaine Bingwa.
Will didn't shy away from the spotlight on the carpet despite the scandal. He and Jada were not to be missed in large part due to her white show-stopping Stephane Rolland gown that ruffled out behind her.
At one point, Will planted a kiss on Jada's bald head as she leaned into him. The 2022 Oscars drama, which saw Will storm the stage and slap presenter Chris Rock, stemmed from Rock making a joke about how Jada could have a role in a G.I. Jane sequel because of her bald head. Rock was apparently unaware Jada has alopecia. In one of Will's subsequent apologies, he said "a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally."
Will's mother-in-law, Adrienne Banfield Norris — who co-hosts Red Table Talk with Jada and Willow — was there as well to support the family. She attended along with her husband Rodney, but posed for photos with her daughter.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Will received cheers from the "crush of photographers" as he arrived on the red carpet. He replied playfully, "What's the deal? What's the deal?" — though presumably knew his first red carpet since the drama would be a big one.
Will then spent a "spent a good chunk of time posing for photos with the cast" as well as Apple executives, the outlet reported. He then made his way down the red carpet, "generously giving time to each outlet."
Will also smiled as he signed autographs for fans lining the street outside the theater.
The last time the Smiths were all on the red carpet together was March 27 at the Vanity Fair Oscars party. The night was a mix of high-highs and low-lows. While Will won the Best Actor Oscar for King Richard, it was eclipsed by his outburst earlier in the evening. In addition to storming the stage to hit Rock, he returned to his seat and preceded to curse him out. Nonetheless, the show continued, Will got a standing ovation for winning his Oscar and he and his family went out to celebrate at the after-party, where he danced to one of his famous hit songs.
Will later resigned from the Academy, which subsequently banned him from the Oscars for 10 years.
The Oscar winner issued several apologies, which received mixed reception, and kept a pretty low profile until returning to the spotlight for this movie. Leading up to it, he attended small screenings — often with friends and supporters. He also made a cheery visit to his former high school, along the road of his redemption tour.
Earlier this week, he sat for his first late-night TV interview since the drama. Chatting with The Daily Show's Trevor Noah, he admitted he "lost it" on Oscars night, blaming years of bottled emotions, dating back to his childhood witnessing his father abusing his mother.
In press leading up to that, Will said he would "completely understand" if audiences aren't ready to see him on the big screen again after the Oscars incident. However, he said his focus is on the team that made the film, saying they "have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don't penalize [them]."
While Will is banned from the Oscars, he's still eligible to be nominated for Best Actor for this project.
On the red carpet Wednesday, he told Extra, "This is definitely a freedom movie … the power of faith, the power of family. It's history, but I think it captures it in a way that feels modern… It's not 'eat your vegetables'… It's a real cinematic spectacle."
Emancipation will be released in select theaters Dec. 2, followed by a global streaming debut Dec. 9 on Apple TV+.