Will Smith can officially notch another milestone for his incredibly decorated career. The actor and hip hop legend received his first-ever Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, a well-deserved achievement thanks to his universally acclaimed performance in King Richard. During his emotional speech, the man formerly known as The Fresh Prince used his time on stage to show love to his female costars, apologize to the Academy for his earlier incident with Chris Rock, and compare himself to Richard Williams in regards to family:
“I’m being called on in my life to love people, and to protect people, and to be a river to my people … in this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that’s okay. … Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, that’s when the devil comes for you.'”
Released back in November, the film saw Smith starring as Richard Williams, the coach and father of tennis iconic Venus and Serena Williams. Supporting Smith included Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, and Jon Bernthal. While on the red carpet, Smith spoke on how he prepared to create the film alongside the Williams family:
“It was really a beautiful time, I was working on my book at the same time, so I was already in that kind of deep dive mode. So when I was able to sit with that family, I was wide open. And, you know, they were wildly supportive and helpful — they were nervous, you know (laughs), they want it to turn out right. … This was a beautiful and [sic] a fantastic process.”
He also gave his perspective on the real life version of the character that he played, Mr. Williams himself:
“He was so misunderstood. We depend so much on the cliché and the stereotype, he was broader than that, he was deeper than that. Their family was doing something that we couldn’t even understand from the headlines.”
Watch Will Smith‘s full speech below.