(CNN) — Will Smith returned to the award show stage in person for the first time since slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars last year.
Smith accepted the Beacon Award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards on Wednesday alongside his “Emancipation” director Antoine Fuqua.
After Fuqua spoke, thanking the cast and crew, he passed the microphone to Smith.
“‘Emancipation’ was the most individual difficult film of my entire career,” Smith said. “It’s really difficult to transport a modern mind to that time period. It’s difficult to imagine that level of inhumanity.”
Smith plays an enslaved man named Peter in the AppleTV+ movie, and described filming one scene where another actor ad-libbed and spit on him during a take.
“It was the second day of shooting and 110 degrees,” he said. “I was in a scene with one of the White actors, and we had our lines, and the actor decided to ad-lib. So, we’re doing the scene. I did my line. He did his line. And then he ad-libbed and spit in the middle of my chest. If I had pearls on, I definitely would’ve clutched them. I wanted to say, ‘Antoineeeeee,’ but I stopped, and I realized that Peter couldn’t have called the director.”
Smith continued describing the scene.
“We do take two. I do my line. He does his line and spits in the middle of my chest again. I just held in that moment, and there was a part — it makes me teary right now — there was a part of me that was grateful that I got to really understand,” Smith said. “And then, in the distance, I hear a voice, and Antoine says, ‘Hey, let’s do a take without the spit.’ And in that moment, I knew that God was real.”
Smith did not attend the NAACP Image Awards last weekend, where he won the best actor award for his performance in the film, but he expressed his gratitude on social media for the recognition.