'Red Table Talk' exclusive: Will Smith says 'Emancipation' is 'critical' for younger generations

Will Smith is taking over "Red Table Talk."

Typically co-hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris and Willow Smith, the actor grabs the mic as host on Wednesday to discuss his Apple TV+ film "Emancipation."

The Oscar-winning actor brings his three children — Trey Smith, Willow Smith and Jaden Smith — on as guests to stress why he believes it's "critical" for their generation to see the film.

Smith stars as Peter, a Haitian slave who escapes plantation owners in Louisiana after he overhears then-president Abraham Lincoln has just passed the Emancipation Proclamation. The film is based on a real-life runaway turned Union soldier whose 1863 photo of his lacerated back, often referred to as "The Scourged Back" or "Whipped Peter," galvanized the North to speak out against continued slavery after it continued in the South post-abolition.

Will Smith hosts "Red Table Talk" with children Willow, Trey and Jaden as guests.
Will Smith hosts "Red Table Talk" with children Willow, Trey and Jaden as guests.

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"It was really critical for me for you guys … and really your generation to see this movie and to understand the foundations of this story and what it means in this country," Smith tells his children in an exclusive sneak peek clip of Wednesday's "Red Table Talk" episode.

The actor recalls crying after Barack Obama was elected as president in 2008; meanwhile, his children were confused because they were already confident that he was going to win.

"You guys grew up in a largely different era," Smith continues. "And so to me it's really different when you know where you've been (and) it helps give you a better sense of where you're going or even why certain things are the way they are."

Smith previously discussed Willow's initial reaction to learning about his involvement in the film, noting that she was skeptical. "My daughter asked me, she's like, 'Daddy, do we really need another slave movie?'" he recalled on "The Daily Show" in November.

"I said, 'Baby, I promised you I wouldn't make a slave movie. This is a freedom movie,'" he declared.

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Smith has a "strong performance" in "Emancipation," USA TODAY's Brian Truitt writes in his review. However, "so much of the film is spent on the chase or war scenes that at key times it becomes more about the action than the man at the center."

"There’s a propulsive quality to the film, especially with Peter on the run. Yet it’s not an easy watch, with images of decapitated heads, sounds of whips and screams, and other horrific traumas suffered by enslaved people of the time," Truitt adds.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Will Smith talks 'Emancipation' on 'RTT' with kids Willow, Trey, Jaden