Smith plays a man called Peter who escapes slavery in director Antoine Fuqua’s thriller, which is based on a true story.
Smith remembered the moment he “found” his character of Peter was when he put the slave’s metal neck cuff on for the first time.
However, his experience was deepened on one occasion when crew members were temporarily unable to remove the cuff from Smith’s neck.
“So they put it on, I’m standing there and he goes to take it off and it doesn’t work,” Smith told his children. “So it’s locked on and my heart jumps and I’m like, ‘Oh no, oh no, oh no.’
“Now he’s running around looking for the keys, and for 15 minutes, I’m stuck there in the chain and my heart is pounding and I’m like, ‘Will, do not freak.’”
Smith said he thought to himself, “I’m Will Smith,” there are “people running around” looking for the keys.
“I’m still scared. Imagine what it was like for Peter to have that stuff on, barefoot and nobody cared,” Smith continued.
“Really dehumanising,” he said. “I hadn’t been able to articulate why, but I felt embarrassed. I was embarrassed while I was standing there and I was waiting. It was emasculating, dehumanising, all of that.”
Elsewhere in the Red Table Talk episode, Smith recalled one of the other actors spitting on him in one ad-libbed scene.
Will Smith’s Red Table Talk Takeover with Willow, Jaden and Trey is available to stream on Facebook Watch.
Emancipation is now streaming on Apple TV+.