/  02.28.2022

There was only one person happier than Will Smith about his first-ever SAG Award: his “mentor” Denzel Washington. Smith won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor on Sunday (Feb. 27) for his portrayal of Richard Williams, Venus and Serena Williams’ father, in King Richard.

In a tearful speech, the 53-year-old called the accomplishment “one of the greatest moments” of his career.

“Richard Williams is a dreamer like no one you’ve ever known,” he said while accepting the award. “He has a power of belief that borders on insanity and sometimes tips over the border, which is absolutely necessary to take something from impossible to possible.”

Speaking directly to the Williams sisters, Smith said, “It was my deepest pleasure to honor your family and tell your story to the world.”

After winning the prestigious award, Smith revealed Washington’s reaction to PEOPLE.

“He just hugged me and he said, ‘I’m so happy for you. Just love who you’re becoming,'” Smith told the outlet. “We’ve spent a lot of time together, so we’ve been talking… [and] he’s always been a mentor for me… He grabbed me and he said, ‘This is your year.'”

“He knew me years ago,” Smith continued. “I would go to Denzel for advice, so he’s seen me through the years and he was just telling me how proud he is of who I’ve become and what I’ve become. He was saying that he felt like a weight was lifted off of his shoulders somehow.”

Smith also commented on his career as a whole, saying he’s at “a beautiful time in my life.”

“The combination of working on King Richard and the work I had to do as an actor, I was doing it while I was working on the book,” he explained. “So I was mining my childhood. I was, you know, really trying to understand my relationship with my father as I was trying to understand Richard Williams and then my parenting with my kids.”

“It’s been a time of deep personal reflection and it is resulting in an artistic comprehension and a growth as a man, growth as an artist, that I’ve never had this kind of growth spurt in my life,” he added.

See Smith’s acceptance speech below.

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