Will Smith’s Emancipation: Plot, Cast, Release Date, and Everything Else We Know

Will Smith has always been known for choosing unconventional roles, making him one of Hollywood’s best actors. With impactful roles in movies like The Pursuit of Happiness, Men in Black, Hitch, and After Earth, Will Smith is once again back with a historical thriller, Emancipation. The film, directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Guilty), is based on the true story of Gordon and could become one of the actor’s greatest works.

Following the incident at the Academy Awards in March, the film was put on hold for quite some time before being announced through Apple TV+. The movie looks promising, with Will Smith playing the role of a liberation warrior who escapes from enslavement. Here’s everything we know about Emancipation.


Emancipation: The Plot

The plot of the film is based on a historical story from the American Civil War. It follows Peter, an enslaved man who flees from a Louisiana plantation in quest of his family. As he travels north with little hope left, he encounters a slew of enemies, including cunning, cold-blooded hunters, lethal swamps, and hunger. Peter survives all of this and joins the Union Army thanks to his defying will.

During the medical examination, they discover whippings on his back from his time as an enslaved person. It represents what Peter has gone through and many other individuals in similar situations.

While the story may appear simplistic, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Although the narrative is mainly about Peter, there are over 40 other enslaved people in the war, most of whom are nearly killed by whipping. During the Union Army examination, Gordon (real-life Peter) stated:

“Ten days from to-day I left the plantation. Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer. My master was not present. I don’t remember the whipping. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping and my sense began to come — I was sort of crazy. I tried to shoot everybody. They said so, I did not know. I did not know that I had attempted to shoot everyone; they told me so. I burned up all my clothes; but I don’t recall that.

I never was this way (crazy) before. I don’t know what make me come that way (crazy). My master come after I was whipped; saw me in bed; he discharged the overseer. They told me I attempted to shoot my wife the first one; I did not shoot any one; I did not harm any one. My master’s Capt. John Lyon, cotton planter, on Atchafalya, near Washington, Louisiana. Whipped two months before Christmas.”

Emancipation: The Cast & Crew

Apple TV+

Behind the depiction of this tragic tale, there is an impressive casting, including Will Smith as Peter, the runaway slave, Ben Foster as Fassel, Steven Ogg as Sergeant Howard, David Denman as General William Dwight, Imani Pullum as Betsy, Grant Harvey as Leeds, Charmaine Bingwa as Dodienne, Paul Ben-Victor as Major Halstead, Mustafa Shakir as Cailoux, Ronnie Gene Blevins as Harrington, Aaron Moten as Knowls, Dave Davis as J. Oliver, Jayson Warner Smith as Capt. John Lyons, Walker Babington as William McPherson, Mark Ashworth as R L Fabian, and Melissa Lehman as Mrs. John Thomas.

While these cast members play influential roles, a few additional characters help to elevate the movie. Will Smith’s Peter is accompanied by deserters Jared Bankens, Josh Whites, and Jeff Pearson throughout the film.

Antoine Fuqua, renowned for his work on Training Day, The Replacement Killers, and Brooklyn’s Finest, is among the film’s production team. With his exceptional story writing skills, Bill Collage (Exodus: Gods and Kings) improvised the full story, while Robert Richardson (The Aviator) acted as cinematographer. The music is composed by Marcelo Zarvos, a composer and performer whose works include Wonder, Fences, and Enough Said.

Release Date

Apple TV+ has officially announced that Emancipation, based on a real story and starring Will Smith, will be released exclusively on its platform on December 9, 2022.

Everything Else We Know

Apple TV+

Due to the controversy caused by Will Smith at the 94th Academy Awards, Emancipation’s release date was initially pushed back to 2023. Nonetheless, once the actor offered an apology in an internet video, the disturbance faded from public view. The initial delay was eventually reversed, and the film will be released on time.

Regardless of what happened in the actor’s personal life, Will Smith is an incredible actor, and he may once again prove that this film is perfectly appropriate for him. Smith spoke about the film’s significance during the post-screening event. According to Deadline, he stated:

“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down many films that were, uh, set in slavery. I never wanted to show us like that, you know, and then this picture came along and this is not a film about slavery.This is a film about freedom. This is a film about resilience. You know, this is a film about faith. It’s a film about the heart of a man, um, what could be called the first viral image. This was a story that exploded and blossomed in my heart that I wanted to be able to deliver to you in a way that only Antoine Fuqua could deliver.”

The incident involving Gordon (Peter in the film) affected many individuals in the nineteenth century, and we’re now getting a visual representation of the tragedy after more than a century. Hopefully, AppleTV+ will make it a success, as it has with every previous project, which seems likely given Will Smith’s attachment to this character.